the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Talking Guns with NSC


I like hearing differing views. So many people are afraid of hearing ideas that don’t match their own, it often makes me wonder if they are really that confident in what they believe. Besides, no issue is all black and white. Two weeks ago, I complained about the medical care my mother-in-law received at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. I got into an email conversation with Psychotoddler, who actually works as a doctor when he isn’t busy blogging. It was fascinating to learn about the struggles of a doctor in today’s medical world. Doctors are as frustrated as their patients (and working in a hospital is nothing like Grey’s Anatomy!). I’ve invited Psychotoddler to come on Citizen of the Month soon. I’ll ask him some questions, and maybe we’ll get some insights on the best way to get the most out of your doctor.

I had another interesting email conversation with another blogger about gun control. Not So Confidential (NSC) is a long time blogging friend. He’s more conservative than I am, but he’s very cool and likes his women brunette, just like I do.

The tragedy at Virginia Tech has brought gun control back into the news. I know nothing about guns and could never understand why so many fight stronger gun control. However, there are a lot of Americans who consider gun ownership a right.

Looking to learn more about the issue, I asked NSC a few questions, and he was gracious enough to answer.

Q: Why don’t you tell the others something about yourself?

A: As one (the only one?) of Neil’s conservative readers, he asked me for some input on the VA Tech shooting and the gun-control controversy that has naturally followed. I am flattered that you asked me to comment, but I was also hesitant to do so for three reasons. One, I am not a very capable writer. Two, I am no expert on the subject. And three, COTM’s readers are pretty damn smart and used to good writing so therefore they are likely to tear me apart. Still, I have never shrunk from a challenge nor run from a fight – well, only that one time when they high school kid threatened to kick my ten year old butt – so I will do my best. I was born and raised in the deep South where guns are commonplace. I am a former military officer where guns are commonplace. And I am now a federal law enforcement officer who uses a gun as a tool to defend myself and those around me. I also believe that the Second Amendment of our Constitution means “individual” ownership and not a militia like the National Guard. That being said, I am not a “gun nut” as some liberals might say. I do not now nor have I ever owned a gun, and while I did hunt some with my father’s shotgun as a child, I never took to it, preferring the occasional fishing or camping trip.

Q: I grew up thinking guns were bad and dangerous, and only the police should have them. That said, it is hard to argue that if someone had a concealed weapon at Virginia Tech, the outcome might have been different. But how would we determine who should be able to carry concealed weapons for protection? How could we really make sure that only really qualified, stable people are allowed to have guns?

A: I believe people should have the right to own guns for sport and self defense and to carry those guns with them if they do it legally, safely and responsibly. At first I was a little concerned about concealed-carry laws, but time has shown that concealed-carry is a safe thing. I could not find exact numbers, but since the concealed-carry trend started between 35 and 38 states have passed laws allowing residents to carry weapons, including Virginia, where this tragedy occurred. And since then there has been no rash of crimes or gun violence among those law-abiding citizens who choose to carry concealed weapons. In fact, in can be argued that just the opposite as occurred. According to data from the FBI, states offering concealed carry permits have lower crime rates than states that do not offer them. On average, these states have a 24% lower total crime rate with 22% lower murder rates, 37% lower robbery rates, and 20% lower aggravated assault rates than states without concealed carry laws.

If you live in one of those states, chances are you know someone who carries a gun legally. You may not know you know them, but you do. They eat at restaurants where you eat and they shop at malls where you shop, they work where you work and golf where you golf. In order to carry their guns, they have received mandatory training in shooting, gun safety, the legal use of deadly force, and they have had background checks to insure they are not criminals or crazies (this crazy shooter had not been legally committed, thus the check did not pick up his prior psychiatric counseling). And for the most part those checks work. (Including mental health data past commitment is something that should be considered, but then again how far do you go? Is marriage counseling a reason to deny a gun permit? Does the Geico caveman’s self-esteem issue keep him from owning a gun?)

Virginia allows concealed-carry so chances are some of the students at Va Tech had the right to carry weapons on their person almost everywhere in the state except on campus. And I do not know about you, but it seems illogical and silly that the state believes these law-abiding adults are capable of safely and responsibility carrying a weapon everywhere except at school. But that is the decision they made and as a result we will never know if one of those people might have been able to stop that crazed shooter and saved lives. Now gun-control advocates are arguing that we need more and stronger laws against gun ownership. But the fact is that most gun crime is committed by criminals who are already breaking an average of 20 some odd gun laws every time they use a gun. If those people are breaking those laws how can anyone believe new laws will stop them? I mean, while this crazy was able to get the guns legally, he was breaking a law by bringing them on campus. Did that law stop him? He was not carrying high-capacity magazines as reported in the news, by the way, but even if he had been, a law against buying them probably would not have kept him from doing so – he was crazy after all.

Q: While it would be nice to think that some “good” person carrying a concealed weapon might have averted the tragedy, do we really want today’s college kids walking around with guns?

A: Well, that is a valid concern and I do not think kids should be allowed to keep guns on campus in their dorm rooms. Too many kids, too much alcohol, and too many hormones add up to too many problems. On the other hand I see nothing wrong with commuting students who are legally allowed to carry being able to keep them with them while they attend classes. That may be a double-standard, but no one forces kids to live on campus and they could make a choice – live there and limit their gun rights or live off campus. I also do not see why professors and certain employees (perhaps that Dorm RA ?) who have concealed-carry permits could not be armed on campus. Had one or two of those professors been armed I feel confident lives would have been saved. Again, the thousands of people who are carrying weapons now do it safely and responsibly. Why does one believe they would be any less safe or responsible on a campus? It makes no sense to me.

Q: Some of the pro-gun lobby just seem plain crazy. They fight against every little regulation. I’ve never gone hunting, but I respect those that consider it a tradition, but what’s so wrong with long waiting periods and restrictions on guns that are clearly anti-social, like semi-automatic weapons? Can’t you wait another week before you go hunting? I think if the NRA was less stubborn and naive about the harm guns do in urban areas, urban liberals would be more willing to respect gun owners.

A: It is my understanding that this crazy in Virginia waited the mandatory 30 day waiting period to buy both of his weapons. Would 60 days have made a difference? Not with this guy who was obviously crazy for a long time. And 30 days certainly is long enough for a “heat of the moment” moment to pass I would think. You also mention the “anti-social” semi-automatic weapons. Well, I am not sure what is anti-social about them. They look more lethal than a revolver, but are no more deadly I assure you. Yes, the rate of fire is faster, but from what I have heard on this shooting the guy could have reloaded with speed-loaders and done just as much damage.

Q: Chances are I’m never going to get myself a gun, but let’s face it — it is a dangerous world. I depend on people like you (the military and the police) to protect me when there is danger. But maybe I’m too dependent on others for self-defense. If I were in one of those classrooms last week, I would have no idea on what to do to protect myself. What could the average person do in a situation like this or in a terrorist situation? Is it best to barricade a door or throw a chair?

A: As to specific advice I could give in a shooting situation. The best thing to do is get low immediately and become less of a target than anything else in the room. In this particular case barricading the doors was a good idea and it did save lives. I told my sons, one who is in college and another starting next fall, that should something like this happen they should run away from the sound of the shots and if it is not possible to run away block the doors or get under cover as best as they can, and finally, if, as it seems to have happened in this situation, there is no escape, then attack the shooter while he is focused on something else. That is easy for me to say I know, but had any of these poor kids had the frame of mind to attack this shooter it might have saved some lives. I do not know that they could have done anything and I am certainly not criticizing them for not trying; I am only saying that this is something you NEED to consider. Don’t be a herd, be a pack.

Thanks, Not So Confidential. Hopefully, our next conversation is on a happier subject, like “hot brunettes of the blogosphere.”


  1. V-Grrrl

    Living in Europe now, I am subject to the outrage people here feel in response to American gun policies. Why should Europeans care? Because most of the handguns in Europe come from America, and they feel their own gun policies are being undermined by ours.

    Until we moved here, we owned guns. At one time my husband was a hunter. When he was in the military and had access to a shooting range, he liked to target shoot and we had a handgun. When we had children the guns were hidden and locked away and not used at all. The children didn’t know they existed until we sold them when we left the U.S. Guns can be responsibly owned and used for sport, but I would certainly support legislation to limit the type and number of weapons people could own and the circumstances they can buy them under.

    All the guns in the U.S. and is anyone really safer? Contrast the number of times we read about accidental shootings of innocent people because of guns in a home with the number of times we hear about Citizen John Doe successfully using a weapon to prevent a crime or defend himself against a very real threat?

    When someone feels they’re in danger, do we want their first response to be picking up the phone or picking up a weapon?

    When police respond and arrive at the scene of a crime, do our law enforcement officers want to be dealing with “citizen shooters” and “friendly fire” as well as criminal fire?

    Is it right for John Doe to shoot and kill someone about to steal his motorcycle out of his home driveway? How about someone carrying his TV out of his house when he arrives home? How about someone stealing his iPod?

    Where do we draw the line on what’s acceptable use of a firearm? Do people deserve to DIE for property crime?

    Anybody besides me remember Bernie Goetz?

    Last year in Belgium, a young man was fatally stabbed in a Metro station when he refused to surrender his MP3 player to two teens. Within days nearly 100,000 people gathered and marched in the city to protest his killing.

    My question for Americans (including myself) is WHERE IS OUR SENSE OF OUTRAGE? Screw filling stadiums to “remember the victims.” MARCH and demand answers. March and demand change. March and say these sorts of killings are UNACCEPTABLE and we need to do EVERYTHING we can to prevent them.

  2. V-Grrrl

    P.S. I expected to be mentioned in the conversation on hot brunettes in the blogosphere.

  3. better safe than sorry

    i’m in canada, this has spilled over into my country as well, in the past several years we’ve had shootings at the university level, it’s even hitting the high schools. it saddens me to think that my kids are going to school in fear, that lock down procedures are now just as common as fire drills. but i have no answers.
    i’m also a brunette and our weather is heating me up, count me in as a hot one!

  4. Karl

    Interesting post, Neil. Thanks to NSC for participating.

  5. Ash

    Growing up in Africa and learning to shoot a gun (for both sport and self defence) at the age of 4, I am now very much opposed to guns. I’m so glad that we live in a society where guns are severely discouraged.

    A knife may be just as dangerous in the wrong hands but it takes a lot more effort to wound or kill as many people with a knife as it does with a gun.

  6. NSC

    As I expected, Neil made my comments look much, much, much, (did I say much?) better than they actually were. So now his head is going to be even bigger – writer AND editor will be on his sidebar soon no doubt.

  7. Caron

    For years I have been talking to the hunters I work with about gun control issues. I have an idea that most consider a little fanciful, but, I still like. I have proposed to them the idea that yes, you can own as many guns as you like, but they must be kept at a gun club. The hunting rifles can be checked out for designated times during hunting season, and then returned. Gun enthusiasts would have swanky places to go and target shoot and mingle with others who share their interests. Without ready access to guns, criminals would resort to other forms of violence, but, a stab wound is less deadly than a gunshot.
    Admittedly, most of my hunter friends have scoffed at my idea when related in a group. Most have come back to me individually and said, you know, I thought about that some more, and I do only use my gun at hunting season, and for a little target practice ahead of time. I could easily do that at the gun club. That would take away the fear of my kids ever getting into my guns, and make my wife happy by not keeping guns in the house. Hmmm…

  8. Neil

    Thanks for the kind words, but Sophia was the editor, not I.

  9. Dagny

    So many thoughts. But V-Grrrl and Caron have put things rather eloquently so I’m going to leave it all there.

  10. Hilly

    Interesting post….I was just talking to Karl about gun control last night, matter of fact. I’m a liberal who is pro gun control but it would take hours to go into my reasoning so we’ll leave it at that 😉

  11. NSC

    Well, my thanks to Sophia then.

  12. Jazz

    V-Grrrl has said it all, what can be added.

  13. Finn

    Thank you, NSC for a thoughtful and rational discussion of this subject. I’m not a fan of guns, but I don’t have a problem with sane, law-abiding people having them (provided they know how to use them), but I also don’t think sane, law-abiding people should mind waiting periods, background checks and safety courses. These are guns we’re talking about, not steak knives. Their only purpose is to kill.

    That being said, the shootings at Virginia Tech should not lead us into a discussion about gun control, but a discussion about how to make sure that people who are this obviously mentally ill are not free to duplicate these actions.

  14. wendy

    2 points….

    Not to get all “babble-y” but..focus on fear and in I need a gun to protect myself…and…you may find tons of things to protect yourself from. This can become paranoid psychotic behavior.

    Next point..V-grrrl may have talked about this in her blog posts on the subject.The root problem is mental health. When Reagan went sniffing around for money..he hit veterans and the mentally ill hard. $500 mil from the veterans…and “reform” for the mental health system. Cuts in funding..and changes to the policies regarding involuntary instution stays. While being hospitalized againt your will does not sound great…the stripping of the ability to hold violent and psychotic people against their wills, is a far more dangerous thing. This was a largely financially motivated shift..Homelessness and tragedy have followed. It is very possible that reform of this system was needed…not a federal dismanteling.

    We need mental health professionals handing out the gun permits…not paper pushers…and lets face it..VENDORS..who stand to make a profit.

  15. Neil

    I do agree with Finn. One of the most uncomfortable parts of this sad event is how many signs there was that this kid was truly troubled… and these signs were ignored…

  16. Neil

    Talking about self-defense, my spam-blocker has gone on alert today for some reason, so please tell me if you can’t comment.

  17. rach

    We are so out of it here in UK, the only negative publicity we here is when things go so horribly wrong as they did in Virginia. It freaks me out when I see armed policemen at airports with guns in their belts, How soon before everyone can own a gun here?

  18. Lilymane

    What a FANTASTIC conversation! Thank you, thank you, thank you – to Neil, to NSC, to all the commenters. I’m from the South (=lots of guns); I was in the military (=lots of guns) and while in the service, I was a qualified marksman (=good training about guns); I am the daughter of a psychotherapist who works on a college campus; and I’m the mother of college-bound high school boys. I have been all over the map of emotions trying to sort what I think from what I believe from what I feel. This conversation helped me so much. Can I say thank you again?!

    PS – I am also a brunette (subject to change without notice.)

  19. V-Grrrl


    Isn’t it ironic that a president who cut funding for veterans and “reformed” mental health was himself a victim of a psychotic shooter? And oh how hard they have to work now to keep someone like John Hinkley who is “not guilty by reason of insanity” in an institution?

    Also, I don’t think anyone would have blinked at Cho’s writing if his persona and behavior didn’t all indicate some type of mental illness. The writing was only deemed a red flag because of the other indicators. English professors and creative writers on university campuses read ALL sorts of stuff. They’re not easily offended or alarmed.

  20. Churlita

    I am very wary of people being able to carry concealed weapons. I work at a campus where we had similar killings in 1991, and two separate people threatened to do the same thing again last year. If they had guns, they may have acted on it.

  21. Ariel

    When it comes to shootings in America such as Columbine and V Tech, the word aberration springs to (my European) mind. Maybe someone here can explain to this European redhead why the right to carry guns is enshrined in the US constitution and why Americans feel so strongly about it when it is that very right/freedom that makes those mass shootings possible? Do bear in mind that this comment comes from probably the only country in the world where police officers are generally unarmed (British police forces all have armed units but the bobby-on-the-beat walking down the road only carries a stick and a spray). This is not a moral display of superiority – lest any reader should think so – but a genuinely baffled question. Guys, I just don’t get it so enlighten me here please.

  22. CHO=PDI

    Great blog, I stumbled up on it.

    Three points really caught my attention here.

    1. NSC saying as a last resort one should know how to defend one self in such a terrifying situation. We have bomb /fire drills, why not implement school shooting drills, after all, we are at war and terrorists are at large.

    2. Psychotoddler couldn’t be any more right about the media. If anyone is to be blamed by such madness, it should be them, hands down.

    3. If anything, realize Cho was not “crazy” as many of you would so easily claim. Crazy people don’t plot out and execute such crimes. Crazy people don’t easily evade the police, deliver a letter to the mailbox, and then commit more killings. Crazy people don’t make it to their senior year of college. To stay he was crazy, is to say there is no intervention or hope to stop this sort of madness.

    Cho was a P.D.I., a very “EXTREME, VERY TOXIC” case of P.D.I.
    Cho thought the rich kids at Vtech were the problem, and he was set on making his fellow students miserable from day one. The question mark on the paper, taking pictures of girls legs, listening to music in class, not saying anything when called upon, etc…

    P.D.I’s are all around us, to learn more about P.D.I.’S and the best way to intervene with their toxic ways, visit

  23. brooke

    Very nicely done.

    But I just have to add one thing regarding the waiting period. NSC asked if waiting 60 days would have made a difference rather than 30 days. In this case, yes, it would have. If there had a been a 60 day waiting period, then the killer at Virginia Tech would not have gotten his gun until after classes were over. Just something to think about.

  24. Blitz Krieg

    Great questions Neil and even better answers NSC.

  25. NSC


    I used the term “crazy” in a general sense because I don’t think any normal person would do what he did. And from his video and writings it is obvious he was mentally disturbed. I don’t know what his specific mental illness was, but it was this that caused him to act the way he did. However, if he were alive I don’t think he would neccessarily be declared legally insane since that boils down to whether he knew what he was doing and that he knew right from wrong when he did it. Again, from his videos I believe he knew right from wrong and he knew what he was doing.


    There isn’t enough space here to explain the genesis of the US Constitution and the Second Amendment, but there is plenty in the history books if you want to take the time to check it out. That being said, the right to bear arms under the Constitution did not make this, and other, mass shootings possible. A crazy man who probably should have been locked up did that. BTW, in 1987, a Brit shot and killed 14 people in the Berkshire town of Hungerford. And this is in a country that for the most part bans guns.

  26. NSC


    I believe he got one gun and then waited an additional 30 days to get his second gun. I’m not sure of this though so maybe it would have made a difference with a 60 day waiting period. Then again, he might have just waited until the summer semester. If only we could know these things ahead of time.

  27. CiCi

    Thanks to both of you, Neil & NSC, for the thought-provoking dialogue. I grew up around guns, as my grandparents owned a gun store before I was born. Even after all the exposure to guns in my formative years, I don’t own one, but it’s because I don’t see the point, not because I’m scared of or don’t like them. My cousins & I were taught to respect guns, but more importantly, we were taught that violence is not an acceptable resolution to any type of problem. Gun control aside, many kids & young adults today think violence is the ONLY acceptable way to end a dispute or solve a problem, so perhaps society needs to address this concern before, or while, we deal with gun control.

    Just to let you all know, many schools, especially after Columbine, instituted procedures for dealing with intruders on campus. The high school I taught at prior to Hurricane Katrina even held drills to practice what we should do. The school I teach at now is revising its procedures, but it does have them.

  28. Danny

    Fascinating post. Thanks, Neil and NSC. Nice to hear this issue being discussed without the usual left/right hysteria. I appreciated all of NSC’s comments and only felt close to hysteria at the thought of ANY group of college students carrying guns on campus. If that happened, I am SURE that the college death toll from gun-related incidents would increase each year by a number greater than the people who were killed at Virginia Tech, whether the deaths were accidental, premeditated, or heat-of-the-moment blowups. Arming college students cannot be the answer! And I do think it’s appalling that someone with Cho’s profile was allowed to purchase a gun. Dangerously suicidal people and stalkers should be on some kind of list that prevents such a purchase. If someone feels they got on that list unfairly, let them petition the courts to be taken off. Cho had a history of troubling and potentially dangerous behavior, it’s horrifying how easy it was for him to buy those guns. The laws need to change.

  29. The Cynical Girl

    I was hoping for a penis-view of guns.

  30. Cho=PDI


    I don’t think he was very mentally ill, if at all, but let us let the experts determine that.

    As far as gun laws, no matter what, Cho or any gun wielding thug can get a gun if they are determined to do so.

    Cho was not diagnosed correctly as a PDI, if he was, this whole unfortunate incident could have been avoided.

  31. Neil

    Once again, thanks NSC. I like this format. Let someone else do all the thinking, and I get a good blog post!

    Cynical — he’s a lover, not a fighter.

  32. psychotoddler


    There’s something called “The National Practitioner’s Databank” that all physicians are required to be registered with. Any time a practitioner is involved in anything compromising, whether it’s a lawsuit, or being kicked off a hospital staff, he must report it, or the other involved parties must report it. Then, if he tries to leave the state and start over, he cannot elude his past. It’s sometimes unfair, but it does prevent really bad doctors from setting up shop in a neighboring state.

    Something like that needs to be available for potential gun owners. If you observe scary behavior in an individual, and think that this person shouldn’t have a gun, you should be able to report into this databank, and gun sellers should have to check it first.

    Now, I see all kinds of abuse potential for such a system, which is why it doesn’t exist. But that’s really what we’re talking about. Everyone who says (in 20/20 hindsight) that this guy should have been picked up and prevented from buying a weapon is really saying they want this Big Brother type system in place.

  33. Eileen

    Interesting post and well thought out. One concern I have in the US is that gun shows do not require the same screening process that a gun show does- this is a significant loop hole in my opinion. I don’t have a problem with people having guns,but I do believe we should regulate who has them and require them to account for where those weapons are (if they are lost, stolen or sold)

  34. Susan

    Thanks you two for the informative and well thought out post. I certainly don’t think the V-tech shootings really should be blamed on gun control laws or the guy who sold Cho the gun. I think it was the way his mental illness was not admininstered correctly that was the issue at hand. Had he received proper treatment for his possible delutional/paranoid schizophrenia; this incident could have been prevented. And I believe he was crazy, but he did know the difference between right and wrong. It was clearly premeditated and in cold blood.

    Also, about buying his gun 30 days later making the total time 60 days; it appeared that he had planned this for some time, and perhaps he would have scooted it up 30 days prior, or even summer school as one suggested.

  35. Jack

    If people want guns they are going to get them, legally or otherwise. That doesn’t mean that I think that everyone should own a gun, but I think that it is a pipe dream to suggest that waiting periods would have stopped this from happening.

    And I feel the same way about the assertion that armed students could have stopped this. There is no guarantee that they could have.

    If someone is willing to die so that they can murder others you are going to face a terrible problem.

    I agree with the comments above about the sad state of mental health. We have to better than this.

  36. nelumbo

    Interesting post. Living in the South has made me more open-minded about concealed weapon permits and owning a gun. If you live in a rural area, it’s really up to you to defend yourself and your family.

    Well instead of arming the students maybe we should arm the teachers. How about I get a concealed weapon permit and take a gun into the classroom??? It’s a little more brave than my current plan of diving under a desk.

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