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Saturday, February 23, 2008

It’s Mourning in the Malls of America

posted by on February 23 at 20:08 PM


This placard is sitting just inside the entrance of the River Park Square shopping mall in Spokane, Washington. Ugh. I’m not sure what’s worse: That the management of a mall in Eastern Washington feels that it’s somehow their responsibility to honor students murdered half a continent away? Or the passive wording they chose for this memorial piece of cardboard? “We honor those who lost their lives…” Um… their lives weren’t car keys or contact lenses, you know. They weren’t misplaced. Their deaths weren’t something that just, you know, kinda, sorta happened.

Their lives were taken from them. And the responsible parties? The shooter, of course, but he had accomplices. Blame must also be assigned to an American electorate—the very same folks streaming past this placard—that tolerates a “gun culture” that wreaks so much havoc. Daniel, Catalina, Ryanne, Julianna, and Gayle didn’t carelessly misplace their lives. They were done to death by the evil fucks at the NRA, the stupid fucks in Congress, and average dumb fucks who think cheap sentiment, a stupid placard, and an ugly vase stuffed with wilting roses somehow exonerates us all.

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As a Canadian I would have to agree that the problem is the 'Gun Culture' down there - but the remedy "more gun control laws" doesn't really work. Laws only affect people who obey them in the first place.

I say this as someone who 'hates' guns but after seeing our government burn through billions on a useless gun registry - gun control laws can often do more harm than good.

Posted by DCrowe | February 23, 2008 8:22 PM

How about the Chris Rock idea: tax the hell out of bullets. Make every bullet for a non-military purpose cost a shitload of money. Yes, this should go for trigger-happy policemen, too. I've seen enough scandal over unwarranted police shootings in Chi-town to know how important this is.

But, this being Chi-town, I'm sure the city/county pols would use this as an excuse to raise property taxes again...

Posted by Tom X. PDX | February 23, 2008 8:52 PM

You're spending a lot of time in Spokane, Dan. Curious.

Posted by Timothy State | February 23, 2008 9:11 PM

The whole violent culture needs to change. Taxing the hell out of bullets would probably be as effective as the war on drugs. People would just steal bullets and committ robberies with knives to get bullets. Also, there would just be a bunch of rich people highly armed ready and willing to kill the poor.

Posted by Papayas | February 23, 2008 9:18 PM

Maybe college campuses can erect a Tomb of the Unknown Shopper to comemmorate mall shootings?

Posted by NapoleonXIV | February 23, 2008 9:20 PM

1. You are right on the gun control, and hope to see more discussions and changes made in light of this sadness. It is a much better conversation then the frivolous ones about making our college campuses safer, which always translates into less academic and intellectual freedoms.

2. I have friends that go to NIU, and am from Illinois. I hope that everyone across this damn continent is mourning somehow. I hope that people show that this slaying was more that just another story you heard on the news. Virginia Tech was a big deal (as it should have been), whys isn't NIU?

Posted by Chris | February 23, 2008 9:29 PM

Grammatical structure is optional in Spokane.

Posted by Cale | February 23, 2008 9:34 PM

You are being to kind. I don't blame congress, they are only reflecting the will of the people who sent them there. I don't blame the NRA, they wouldn't have any power were it not for the voters supporting them. The blame lies solely and completely with the gun loving American public. All the anti-gun legislation in the world will be meaningless until the attitude Americans have towards guns is fundamentally changed.

Posted by markinthepark | February 23, 2008 9:54 PM

I am a life member of the NRA. I own guns, I have a concealed pistol license, and I sometimes (not often enough) carry a pistol in my daily life. And I have taught my children how to safely handle guns and how to shoot.

Yes it is shocking when someone takes innocent lives with a gun. It is also shocking when someone does so with a car (as happened last week at an illegal street race).

Yes, a gun is a really great tool for taking life. It is also a really great tool for protecting life and property. Disarmed societies may well have less murder -- but they also frequently suffer from plagues of other crimes. Check out the rates in peaceful England of violent street assaults and home invasions.

Posted by Fritz | February 23, 2008 10:08 PM

Without trying to interject myself into a discussion where maybe I don't belong, can I just say that perhaps "well regulated militia" is not the worst idea ever.

Posted by elenchos | February 23, 2008 10:08 PM

Can you explain how the gun culture, which is not tolerated in Chicago, manages to claim so many more lives there than it does in Spokane or Texas where it is tolerated? Ditto for every other gun banning city in the US which has higher murder rates than Seattle or any of the non gun-banning cities (Baltimore, DC, etc).

I can't explain the much lower rates of murder in Japan or Europe, but I can tell you that a couple of Chinese exchange students murdered a Japanese family *WITH A HANDGUN* while I was in Japan. They clearly weren't rocket scientists since they murdered the family thinking that would help them get away with it, but they were able to get a handgun in Japan. These kind of events, and there are lots of them. Prove conclusively in my mind that gun laws do nothing to prevent crime.

Hippies are never pleased when the Manson murders are blamed on hippie culture (which it rarely is). You wouldn't like it if I blamed a murder committed by a gay man on our continued toleration of the gay culture. You would be right not to like it. It would be bullshit, just as your indictment of gun culture for this murder is bullshit.

America's love of guns is an integral part of what brought us the constitution. Trusting an innocent person to own a gun, or a car which is known to kill a lot more people, is implicit in allowing that person any kind of freedom. You'll see America's love of guns go away some time after, not before, all of our other freedoms, like the freedom from religion and the freedom to consensually sodomize each-other, are gone.

Posted by Cedar Bristol | February 23, 2008 10:21 PM


The "gun culture" is not a person.

There is no one else to blame. The shooter was crazy and refused treatment. The only other target for blame is other civil liberties which keep the government from forcibly medicating the mentally ill.

Posted by keshmeshi | February 23, 2008 10:28 PM

As the ranking NRA evil fuck (benefactor member), I can assure you that taxing ammo won't make a whit of difference - I make my own. As for the guys out there defending our God-given rights, carry on.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 23, 2008 10:44 PM

I agree with most Canadians - and many Americans - that guns don't kill people, stupid fricking axxh013s with guns kill people.

Allowing the mentally ill to have weapons is just plain stupid. And nobody needs an assault weapon - ever.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 23, 2008 10:45 PM

OK, Will, I'll bite: define "assault weapon." With enough specificity that it will hold up in court. Hint: "It's black" isn't good enough.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 23, 2008 10:53 PM

Will, I will also love to hear your definition of "assault weapon". Will it include "has a bayonet lug"?

Posted by Fritz | February 23, 2008 11:06 PM

Okay, @15, I'll bite.

A shillelagh can be an "assault weapon." Hell, for that matter, so can a spoon or a wire hanger.

I think what Will meant is along the lines of automatic-fire weapons, the likes of which the framers of our Constitution couldn't have dreamed of in their musket-rifle, flint-lock times.

But this pro/anti-gun debate is all off point. Several people are dead and many others injured because some mentally impaired jerk took them out, and businesses are trying to look good to consumers by offering token sympathy.

Posted by JAM in PGH | February 23, 2008 11:17 PM

oh, i don't know, any easily convertible weapon like an AR-15 or FN rifle. Yes, that means an AK or any SMG of any type, as well as any auto-pistol with a reload that isn't manual.

(laughing at fake argument)

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 23, 2008 11:38 PM

BTW, Fifty-Two-Eighty, I'm not anti-gun. I learned to shoot when I was in elementary school. But two other things I learned: Never point a gun at another human unless you are fully prepared to take their life (even if you think the safety is on); and, There's no reason to hunt a deer or turkey with an AK-47.

That being said, I think this is more a failure of America's [mental] health systems than gun control failure.

Posted by JAM in PGH | February 23, 2008 11:38 PM

JAM, please don't let anything I say make you think that I don't feel the pain inflicted by the innumerable idiots in the world who, quite literally, "run amok" - whether they mis-use guns, knives. cars, or screwdrivers. You seem to quite rationally understand that most anything can become a weapon in the wrong hands, and I applaud you for that. I also hope you understand that each and every one of the people involved in the recent spate of shootings was breaking a whole raft of laws, and that passing more laws, particularly laws based upon undefinable concepts like "assault weapons" or "Saturday night specials," will solve nothing. BTW, no-one has used an automatic weapon to commit a crime in this country in the past 70 years.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 23, 2008 11:40 PM

Oops, forgot the idiots in LA. OK, one time.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 23, 2008 11:44 PM

Will, most every SEMI-automatic gun in the world can be "easily converted" to select fire. Quite a few of them will do it on their own if they get dirty enough. Would you ban all semi-automatic guns? Don't think that would survive a court challenge.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 23, 2008 11:51 PM

Fifty-Two-Eighty, a young girl was killed a couple of weeks ago in the North Side of my city by automatic fire, something like 45 bullets, through the outer walls of the house, and wounded her mom. It was retaliatory for gang crap. There's been some AK shootings in the past few months around here, too.

I don't think you've got to be a "NRA nut" to see a compromise between the rights guranteed in the 2nd Amendment and reason. And you're right - it's easy to covert a semi- into fully-automatic. Kits are easy to find.

Just about anything, in the hands of a deranged person, can become a weapon - gun, steak knife, screwdriver, spoon, chain, crayon...

I maintain what's sad about this article is the mall trying to capitalize off of the tragedy at NIU.

Posted by JAM in PGH | February 24, 2008 12:00 AM

@15 and @22

Any weapon not a single or double shot shotgun or a bolt action rifle, including all pistols. It's never taken me a whole 30 shot clip when I was deer hunting to kill something.

Posted by Colton | February 24, 2008 12:04 AM

My definition of "assault weapon" is any firearm that can achieve a sustained rate of fire of more than one shot per minute. That ought to about cover it.

The problem with guns is their ubiquity, and their ubiquity is a result of their legality. I'd like to see them all confiscated and melted down, and even more importantly I'd like to see them shunned in the general culture. If owning a gun was seen as about as acceptable as owning child pornography, gun violence would fade away.

Posted by Fnarf | February 24, 2008 12:23 AM

Fifty-Two-Eighty, I believe you've got empathy. I don't always agree with your posts (I read SLOG every week but almost never post) but this article about the token sympathy placard pissed me off.

Posted by JAM in PGH | February 24, 2008 12:27 AM

@22 - I stand by my argument, even if I may myself have converted at least two semi-automatic weapons to full auto during my military service ... (frickin gun nut)

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 24, 2008 12:28 AM

Fifty-Two-Eighty, I believe you've got empathy. I don't always agree with your posts (I read SLOG every week but almost never post) but this article about the token sympathy placard pissed me off.

Posted by JAM in PGH | February 24, 2008 12:32 AM

Colton, not sure if you realize that you just stated that you would ban ALL semi-automatic guns. If that was your intent, I reiterate my earlier statement that a ban that sweeping would almost certainly not survive a challenge in court. And you're OK with pump shotguns? Fuck me, that's a helluva lot more deadly than just about anything you can get your hands on. Particularly after I've spent five minutes on it with a file making it slam-fire, which remains 100% legal. Giving away too many secrets here, and time to go to bed anyway. Have a good one.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 24, 2008 12:34 AM

I really am off to bed, but can't let Stevie's post pass without comment. One shot per minute? I can get three shots per minute out of my Kentucky flintlock. Are you sure about that?

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 24, 2008 12:42 AM

Confidential to JAM: Sometimes, like Dan, I like to stir the pot just to see what happens. It's probably a good thing that you don't always agree with me; I don't always agree with me either.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 24, 2008 12:48 AM

I remember on 9/11 all these people rushing to donate blood. Why? I wondered. NYC was 3000 miles away. Still later, I saw all these guys I knew wearing FDNY baseball caps with a wary pride.

Then I figured it out: We're all in this together. It's the same way with NIU. Even were we not linked by our common humanity, we can relate, because most of us went to college, or had kids in college, or walked past a college.

I don't think you can blame the gun culture -- the guy could have killed more people with a car at a street festival. It's tempting to blame the prozac culture, but blaming the deranged is unfair. I'm on the side of those who think the clinically depressed should be disarmed and treated. How about blaming the culture that stigmatizes the mentally ill and denies or severely limits the amount of treatment it will pay for?

Posted by psycho killer qu'est-ce que c'est? | February 24, 2008 1:02 AM

@ 11, 13

Oh my friends, but it is you, the peaceful law abiding fathers of responsible gun toting children who are responsible for these deaths. There are two uses for a handgun: to practice killing people and to kill people. That you tolerate the general public owning them is criminal.

Posted by markinthepark | February 24, 2008 2:00 AM

Alright, I'll grant you that 9 times out of 10, this is shameless corporate bandwagoning, built to get passed your defenses and sucker you for another buck.

But you're gonna feel like such an ass if one of the mall mucky-mucks knew one of those kids.

Posted by Zelbinian | February 24, 2008 2:52 AM

@32 - I absolutely agree with your last paragraph.

@33 - you are very misguided and seem to have not read any of my or Fifty-Two-Eighty's earlier posts. Or perhaps you just didn't understand them. And besides, the original post was about a mall trying to make money by offering a token of sympathy for the casualties at NIU - or didn't you read that, either?

Posted by JAM in PGH | February 24, 2008 3:01 AM

Goddamnit, River Park Square. Always just a *few* steps short of classy.

Dan Savage's Spokane posts: My anti-homesickness remedy.

Posted by k | February 24, 2008 3:49 AM

Yet another reminder of why I do not live in Spokane anymore.

Posted by Gidget | February 24, 2008 4:35 AM

Dan, if you're in town today you should visit the Magic Lantern theater downtown. It just opened a few months ago in the Saranac hotel and is one of the greenest buildings in the northwest AND it's gorgeous AND it's my favorite motion picture venue in the state.

And Spokane may suck (it does), but the Banana Republic just beyond that sign features absolutely the BEST clearance rack of any BR I have ever seen.

Posted by Spokanite | February 24, 2008 6:16 AM

Why should someone's life matter less if they died farther away from you?

Anyway, I think the real issue is that the mall seems to be trying to profit off of the untimely deaths of some people who happened to have famous deaths. Obviously, people die tragically every day and don't get placards in a mall. Perhaps someone who works at the mall knows one of these people who died, who knows.

I agree with Michael Moore that the gun culture has a lot to do with our fear-mongering local TV news. Everyone knows how stupid local TV news is, yet they watch it every night and receive the message that their neighbor/neighborhood/town/city/nation/world is a dangerous entity to be feared. Shame on them. Fear contributes to unreasonable level of gun-ownership and hence, gun accidents.

Posted by me | February 24, 2008 8:46 AM

Fritz, on the odd chance that you read this today, it's that time again - time to vote for the Board of Directors. Damn, I hate the "vote for only 26 out of 31 people" part of it. Every one of those 31 people would probably do a damned good job. The only guy I probably won't vote for is Tom Selleck, but he'll get it anyway. Your thoughts?

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 24, 2008 8:50 AM

me, you remind me of my favorite Michael Moore story. He said in an interview after Bowling for Columbine that he joined the NRA so he could become its President and put it out of business. This statement shows his colossal ignorance: 1) the NRA President is not elected, and 2) it's a token, figurehead position - all the real power is in the hands of Wayne LaPierre, the "Executive Vice President." I know Wayne. Don't always agree with him, but there's no denying that he runs the show, and anyone who thinks differently is a fool. BTW, Moore was an NRA life member at the time that movie was made, but is not today. No further information available.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 24, 2008 9:08 AM

When I read posts full of this macho chickenhawk NRA posturing I pretend it's being said in Rush Limbuagh's voice. Try it; it's hilarious.

Posted by elenchos | February 24, 2008 9:44 AM

Go look at real gun violence statistics; how many legally held guns are used in crimes? Virtually none. How many NRA/GOA members commit gun crimes? Virtually none.

The point being, those who commit gun crimes are (DUH!) totally uninterested in the legality of firearms posession. Look at the places with the LEAST legal firearms, and you will see the highest levels of gun violence.

The only area in which law-abiding gun owners have a getting-shot problem is in accidental shootings...and frankly, if somebody is stupid enough to store a loaded gun where their child can find it (which is ILLEGAL), or to stare down the barrel of a potentially loaded gun, they're stupid enough that they would have won their Darwin award some other way if they didn't have firearms.

Maybe we should start going after Ginsu and Cutco when there are stabbings? Maybe we should outlaw Toyotas, since they are so popular and since auto crashes are one of the leading killers of young Americans?

Yes, there's certainly a point to be made about the cultural problem behind shootings, but creating legislation that only affects legal, responsible gun owners is a waste of time, a feel-good do-nothing waste of money that gives you the cozy feeling of doing something, but this is a total illusion.

I used to live in NYC. NOBODY legally has a handgun there, but I could hear the bullets flying day and night. Now I live in a rural area, and like almost everyone in my area I'm a gun owner (because I want to take responsibility for how I obtain my meat - hunting wild game is infinitely better for your health and the environment than the plastic-wrapped garbage most people eat). Guess how often we have shootings? Uh, never.

BTW, I don't belong to the NRA because not only are they right-wing nut jobs, they actually have sponsored or approved of EVERY major federal gun control bill that has come along. And look how much good it's done.

Posted by peacefulGunOwner | February 24, 2008 9:48 AM

52-80: I think Fnarf at 25 must have meant "a sustained rate of fire of more than one shot per second." That would make sense.

But it looks like he's gone to bed.

Posted by Steve T. | February 24, 2008 9:48 AM

what kind of music did he like? we could blame them.

what kind of movies did he watch? we could blame hollywood.

what was his political affiliation? if he was a republicans we could say that its their fault because their support of war and torture has devalued human life in their collective minds.

his name looks polish. fucking polacks, man. THEY'RE to blame.

or we could blame gun owners.

imho, all of these are equally retarded statements.

Posted by some dude | February 24, 2008 9:53 AM

I won't wade into the gun debate--been there, done that--because it's like the debate about abortion. Everyone has heard all the pro and con arguments but no one is ever going to change their mind.

Having said that, I like @32 regarding the nationwide mourning for the 9/11 victims. I had made an appointment the previous week to donate blood at the Puget Sound Blood Center that evening. When I arrived the line was out the door and around the block. Say what you want about American culture, but we are very generous when it comes to helping those after a disaster. It's one of our greatest strengths. Look at the millions who donated to the Red Cross and other organizations after Katrina as well as God knows how many are to this day volunteering their time and skills to help rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf coast. Same for the tsunami in Asia and other disasters.

I can be cynical about the Spokane mall sign and say it's just a sympathy ploy to lure shoppers or I can simply take it as face value and see it as a well meaning gesture that does no harm and is better than nothing.

Posted by RainMan | February 24, 2008 10:02 AM

Yah, Steve, it was a late night for a lot of us. One shot per second - hmm, back in my competitive shooting days, I was able to take out five targets with aimed fire in three seconds. With a Smith & Wesson revolver. (Yeah, to be honest, I burned through about 5,000 rounds a week, every week, to get that good.) Nevertheless, that statement, even with your qualification, doesn't hold up so well.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 24, 2008 10:03 AM

Here's what is annoying to me about this whole "debate". To a lot of quasi-libertarian people the *only* way in which the modern big-government Republicans are "better" then Democrats is that Republicans won't try to confiscate their guns. Republicans used to have some other positive qualities, but those have sort of disappeared into the maw of power.

If Democrats would simply knock off the "Ooohh... There was a mass shooting. Let's make laws against all gun owners" trip, that would have a few percentage points across the board to Democratic totals, which would swing a number of states.

Posted by Fritz | February 24, 2008 10:24 AM

@48 - exactly

Posted by some dude | February 24, 2008 10:31 AM


Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 24, 2008 10:45 AM

@33 - OK. But being able and prepared to kill someone in the defense of innocent people is not necessarily a bad thing.

Other societies (and I am specifically referencing England) have found that when the general public is not allowed to have the tools at hand to defend themselves, there are fewer murders than the US is experiencing but significantly more assaults and home-invasion burglaries (burglaries where the attackers expect people to be at home and just don't care).

Saying "the police should protect the public" makes no sense. There are not enough police around to prevent assaults, and I don't think either of us want that many police around.

Posted by Fritz | February 24, 2008 11:02 AM

@20 - "please don't let anything I say make you think that I don't feel the pain inflicted by the innumerable idiots in the world who, quite literally, "run amok" - whether they mis-use guns, knives. cars, or screwdrivers."

Mmmmm - enlighten us. How do you "feel that pain"?

Posted by Mr. Incredulous | February 24, 2008 3:56 PM

@52, it's called empathy. I've seen tornadoes in person, but I've never seen a tsunami in person; I feel for victims of both. It's different because those are acts of nature, not of man, but it doesn't mean we can't feel for the casualties and the survivors.

BTW, Fifty-Two-Eighty, someone in my city just used a semi-auto to hit eight people in a bar in my city. You wanna bet on the odds it was illegally obtained?

Posted by JAM in PGH | February 24, 2008 8:33 PM

Odds? I can't give odds on something that's a 100% certainty.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 25, 2008 7:09 AM

@7 says: "Grammatical structure is optional in Spokane."

Nice job trivializing an important discussion by reducing it to a cheap shot about grammar. Not to mention that there isn't a damn thing wrong with the structure of that sign. But I'm sure it helps you feel superior to those rubes in the eastern part of the state.

Posted by duh | February 25, 2008 11:41 AM

@53 - Thanks for the homily. And for giving the person who the question was originally directed to a nice little swerving sub-topic.

Posted by Mr. Incredulous | February 25, 2008 3:19 PM

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