In It For The Money: Guns And Control

A gun isn't a tool – it's not a hammer or a drill ... it's an instrument, like a guitar or piano. ... its nature is to make us aware of how vital and powerful our attention is.

Editor’s note: Nelson’s “In it for the Money” opinion column appears regularly in The Chronicle, roughly around the third Wednesday of the month. FYI, Nelson has written a piece for The Magazine about a device to adapt a digital camera to pinhole technology, called Light Motif – possibly of interest to Chronicle readers.

David Erik Nelson Column

David Erik Nelson

This is not a column about “gun control” [1]; it’s a column about guns, and it’s a column about control, and it’s ultimately a column about the quick and the dead.

But it’s not about gun control. As of this moment, I have no stable opinion about gun control; I’m not conflicted, but I’m still doing the math. My next column will be closer to being about “gun control” – and you can expect some math then.

But today, let’s just talk about guns.

I own two functional guns. One is a Beretta AL 391 Teknys, which is a semi-automatic 12 gauge shotgun. I’m told the AL 391 family is popular with bird hunters, although I use it for shooting clays – a hobby I was introduced to by my father. I also own a Browning Challenger .22 target pistol.

As Americans, we take it for granted that guns are tools for solving problems. I thought that too, back before I’d ever actually shot a gun. But I don’t think that anymore.

In this column I want to talk mostly about the pistol.

Intro To Guns

The Browning Challenger is a semi-automatic pistol (which means that it will fire each time you pull the trigger, with no additional action on the part of the shooter). The Challenger has a standard 10-round magazine. It’s designed as a target pistol, and is thus chambered for .22LR (“long rifle”) ammunition. This ammunition has a relatively short effective range, but can be fairly accurate over that distance. It’s well suited to indoor ranges.

Cartridge and fish oil supplement

A fish-oil supplement compared to a .22 cartridge.

Most folks learn to shoot a gun firing .22LR; it is the most common ammunition in the world. These rounds are quiet (relative to everything else on a shooting range), with virtually no kick (relative to everything else on a shooting range), and small. The entire cartridge [2] isn’t even as long as the last knuckle of my pinky finger, nor as thick as a pencil. It’s actually smaller than the fish-oil supplement I take daily. I could dry-swallow a .22LR [3].

Also – most importantly, in terms of popularity and education – .22LR ammo is cheap. Most folks buy them in “bricks” of 500 rounds. That sounds like a lot, but a pair of shooters – one teaching the other how to do it – can go through a brick surprisingly quickly.

I’m telling you all of this because this is the Ann Arbor Chronicle, and not the Dexter Chronicle, or the Holland Chronicle, or the Houghton Chronicle. And it’s likely that many of you, Gentle Readers, have limited exposure to guns. I grant that it’s possible that the preceding sentence struck some of you as patronizing and condescending.

But still, I think it’s equally possible that you read “semi-automatic” and thought “scary.” Or maybe you thought something totally erroneous like “that sprays out bullets for as long as you hold down the trigger” or “Dave is going to kill me.” It’s likely that if you read a media description like “… the suspect had a hoard of thousands of rounds of ammunition” you’d think “deranged,” not “That guy probably bought a few bricks; he might have come across a good deal.”

I’m being tedious because right now we’re having a gun debate in this country that’s fantastically devoid of simple physical facts. I’m thinking that maybe we need to start out slow and have ourselves a gun conversation.

Happy Holidays

My Browning was a gift from my father, the gun he used to teach himself to shoot, and on which he subsequently taught me to shoot. He was the original owner. He bought it in the mid-1960s, back when these pistols were still hand-machined from a single block of steel by an actual Belgian.


Browning Challenger semi-automatic pistol.

Over the recent Non-Denominational Gift Giving Holiday I brought this pistol to my in-laws’ place, which is on several fallow acres outside of Holland, in West Michigan. My father-in-law had recently purchased a Browning Buck Mark (which is the mass-produced, CNC-routed aluminum descendant of the Challenger), and he was curious to compare the two guns.

But also my son was along. He’s in first grade, and had taken an interest in the war games my nephews play on Xbox.  His cousins are older – middle school and high school boys. He had been regaling me daily with accounts of the “HALO” games he and his friends re-enact on the school playground.

If he wanted to talk about guns, to imagine guns, to play at what guns are and do, then I wanted him to shoot a gun. He’d seen me shoot plenty of times – my shotgun, which is heavy and loud and leaves smudgy bruises on my right shoulder – but had never pulled a trigger himself.

Learning About Guns

As it turned out, this foray was wonderfully instructive. We went out into the overgrown fields, where my father- and brother-in-law have built their shooting range. The day was bitter cold. I hadn’t shot my .22 in several years, and it kept misfeeding, only squeezing off three rounds successfully. I later discovered that the barrel screw was a touch loose and the barrel block subtly fouled with the wax that coats .22LRs. These guns are accurate because they are built to tight tolerances, so even a little shifting and gunk will muck things up badly.

The Buck Mark similarly misfed and misfired (although at a lower rate) – this, I think, because of the lighter aluminum unevenly contracting as it made the shift from a warm house to a cold field. But my boy still got to shoot (with my father-in-law guiding his hand).

And what he found was this: Shooting can be stressful. A gun – even a plinky little .22 – is loud, and it jumps in your hand like something live and nervous. It’s hard to use; most of his shots sailed into the dirt two yards in front of the target, even with an adult steadying his hand. And guns are unpredictable: Many shells turned out to be bad (my father-in-law had split a cheap gun-show brick with his brother-in-law), or were crimped useless when they were slammed crookedly by the misfeeding slide.

And even though we were shooting at a steel target made for .45s, I broke the damn thing with a “lucky” shot that was a little high and happened to catch the ironwork at its seam, sending the heavy target sailing away. Even this little gun was fearsome. And even a bullet smaller than an M&M snapped steel. It brought a touch of dread to the boy.

The gun taught him a lesson.

A Gun Is Not A Tool

A gun isn’t a tool – it’s not a hammer or a drill that you can pick up, use to solve a problem, and put away until you have the next problem you want to solve. It’s an instrument, like a guitar or piano. It requires constant care, it requires checking and tuning before each use, it requires an intimate relationship with its mechanisms, with its parameters, with what it can do and what it should do and what it is meant for. It requires care and feeding. And it requires practice, near constant practice for you to be any good at doing anything with it.

But most of all, it requires attention – all of your attention. You are exquisitely focused when you are holding a gun – and not just because the gun can hurt or kill anyone nearby, including you. (Our cars are far more likely to hurt and kill anyone nearby, and we zone out behind the wheel all the time.)

There is an essential quality to this instrument compared with others; its nature is to make us aware of how vital and powerful our attention is, in and of itself. I don’t look at my father when I’m holding my loaded shotgun. I don’t look at my son when I’m holding my loaded pistol. I look at the target – only at the target, because whatever I’m looking at is the target.

Shooting skeet.

David Erik Nelson shooting skeet.

The gun is not a tool, and it doesn’t solve problems; it is an instrument, and it expresses feelings. When I’m shooting skeet, I have to feel that clay in my heart before I can smash it; I have to feel how it soars. The hard part isn’t the shooting – that’s just a swing of the arm and twitch of the finger; I never even think about it.

The hard part is the seeing, really seeing the orange disk, not just assuming I see it, or thinking I see it, or seeing my idea of the disk and its location. It’s harder than you think, because most of us go most of our days without beginning to appreciate how little we see the world, and how completely we rely on our ideas about the world without checking them against what our senses are actually reporting. [4]

When you pick up a gun – just like when you pick up a ukulele or a violin – even if you are “just practicing,” you are saying something about yourself, about the world and your place in it, about the connectedness of things, about our human tendency to build devices beautiful and destructive.

Learning To Shoot

So shooting with my wife and son and father-in-law – out in the cold, with real guns that were loud and destructive and erratic – was stressful for my son, and reminded me of the first time I’d gone shooting with my dad, when I was in my 20s.

I’d never touched a gun – although he’d always kept them in the house – but I’d grown up an American, and so I had ideas about guns. And the gun I used that day was his preferred gun at the time, a Beretta 9mm pistol. I couldn’t hit a thing with it – literally. As I recall, the paper target was entirely unscathed. And I’d had to force my finger to curl around the trigger each time, because each explosion was tremendous. Each one felt like the Worst Thing I’d Ever Done, and with each shot I couldn’t help but imagine that bullet tearing into me, piercing my chest, breaking my bones.

But having taken up the gun, I could not put it back down, just as I can’t put down the ukulele – regardless of how abysmal a musician I’ve made – just as I’m helpless to drop this pencil, to keep my hands off the keyboard. So we went back with the .22. This is an impractical gun in many regards – low-caliber, too bulky to conceal, with its barrel long for accuracy, the grip thick for comfort and steadiness, the sights absurdly pronounced for a pistol in America.

But it fit my hand like no other object I’d ever touched, and every shot went exactly where I wanted it, where my eye placed it. I never thought about my hand or my chest or my heart or my bones, just my eye and the sights and the target.

Just the world that I saw.

This will sound insane to all of you who don’t both shoot and make art, but shooting felt just exactly like writing. These were fundamentally the same activities.


After my son and I were back inside and warmed up, I asked my little boy what he’d thought of the shooting, expecting he’d repeat what he’d said when he was three and watched me shooting skeet with my dad – “Too loud!” That was despite my big blue ear protectors clutching his head.

But he didn’t. He was thoughtful, and he smiled, and he said, “It was good.” And since we’ve been back home it doesn’t seem like he’s been playing “HALO” at school. He spent some of his Holiday money on a NERF gun.

He doesn’t need to be told not to point it at people or pets.

The War On Gun Violence

Since the Newtown tragedy I’ve been having a lot of conversations about guns – in person, on Twitter, on Facebook. And I’ve begun to suspect that the most fundamental flaw in our national “debate” about guns is that so many of us think of them as tools that we can (or should, or might, or must) use to solve problems, instead of seeing them for what they are: Instruments through which we express ourselves, for better or worse.

I’m telling you all this because I don’t want to have a “debate” about “gun control.” First and foremost, I’m tired of “debates.” When we couch everything in the language of force and violence and coerced control – a war on poverty, a fight to end homelessness, stamping out childhood obesity – it becomes increasingly seductive to see violence as the go-to solution.

But more importantly, every indication is that we’re pretty good at controlling our guns: We set out to hurt ourselves and each other, and achieve that goal. About 100,000 Americans can expect to have high-velocity lead enter their bodies this year. Almost all of those will be fired in a conscious attempt to cause harm. About a third of these lead recipients will die from their lead. Almost all of those will be in acts of intentional violence, mostly acts of self-harm.

Guns are a problem, but I don’t think they’re The Problem.

The Problem is: There is so much we feel we can say only in lead.

[1] I’m making an assumption about you, Dear Reader, and it’s this: I assume that you, like me, want to minimize the amount of lead that goes into human bodies. You don’t want fast-moving lead entering your body or that of a loved one – or even a stranger. You don’t want to put lead into the body of another human being. You want to stay unleaded. If we can all agree on that, then we can move forward together.
[2] Just to clear up something that often confuses folks: A “cartridge” or “round” is the whole package. It comprises the bullet (i.e., the little hunk of lead that flies out of the gun and hurts things), the casing (in this case a brass tube), and the propellent inside the casing (gunpowder that’s ignited by a primer – usually a dab of pressure-sensitive chemicals not so different from a strike-anywhere match head).
[3] I’m not suggesting you do so! Remember, our overarching goal, for the next several columns, is keeping lead out of human bodies.
[4] In light of this, it should come as no surprise that the most natural shots I’ve ever met have all been artists, ’cause that’s the only other human endeavor that’s so much about perceiving the world as it is, rather than as we’d have it be.

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  1. By Ricebrnr
    February 20, 2013 at 12:40 pm | permalink

    Interesting article, not sure I agree on some of your more nuanced points but as a former artist and current CPL holder, I will be following your column with great interest.

    I would like to point out that your relatively limited firearms background and American media exposure does still bleed out in your otherwise deliberate writing. For example:

    “every indication is that we’re pretty good at controlling our guns”

    You see bullets tearing into bodies. Even with the increase of guns and gun ownership in America, I see the continued downward trend of gun accidents, especially among children. I also see the exponential increase in Concealed Pistol Licensees who commit crimes at rates lower than even Law Enforcement Officers. I see daily reports at news aggregators such as that show most gun owners thwarting crimes OFTEN without firing a single shot. So yes, every indication is that the law abiding are indeed very good at controlling their weapons.

    Unfortunately, the “conversation” about guns generally starts with guns = bad, therefore all gun owners = bad. Now if we can separate the discussion from the law abiding and the law breaking, then perhaps truly a conversation can begin.

  2. By Suswhit
    February 20, 2013 at 12:47 pm | permalink

    This was very interesting because, yes, this reader is entirely ignorant about guns. But when I got to the line “He doesn’t need to be told not to point it at people or pets” I couldn’t help thinking that was dangerously naive. Seems to me a few kids die every year because some other kid wants to show them their daddy’s gun. And a few also decide that dad’s gun would be an excellent choice for show and tell. I bet their parents thought they didn’t need to be told either.

  3. By patmur
    February 21, 2013 at 9:53 am | permalink

    Thanks. Right on target, so to speak. The current “debate” on firearms seems to me an exercise in futility. Probably a victim of the generally poor state of public discourse we currently endure, where polarization seems the norm. But it’s also testament to just how powerful guns are, whether stored in a closet, or in one’s hand, or in the hands of a stranger.

    Your point about guns being instruments rather than tools is most apt, and worth considering. It suggests how difficult it will be to arrive at a consensus about guns that makes sense both for Ishpeming and Detroit. That said, it’s a good thing to begin talking about the weapons we own, for hunting, sport, or security. I found your essay balanced and thought provoking.

  4. By Walter Cramer
    February 22, 2013 at 7:01 am | permalink

    Re: #2 David’s “He doesn’t need to be told not to point it at people or pets” line was in reference to the NERF gun (that his son spent most of his Holiday money on). You are correct about unsupervised kids with real guns, but I suspect that NERF guns inflict very close to zero fatal wounds annually.

    (I’d assume that the author keeps his guns secured, taught his son about gun safety, etc. He also drove carefully to Holland, was sober, dressed his son appropriately for the cold weather… David could probably write a very nice psalm to the God of Safety, if he thought that the Chronicle’s readers were interested.)

  5. By Observatory
    February 22, 2013 at 11:08 am | permalink

    Good job ! Thanks for expanding the breadth and freedom of discourse in America.

  6. By VA12
    February 22, 2013 at 11:48 am | permalink

    Kudos! That is a refreshing piece and most welcome.

    I am an avid shooter and have been since childhood, when I was taught by my father to shoot and handle everything from beginner or kids guns to combat pistols and rifles.

    It is disturbing to me and many other avid shooters around the country that the conversation is numbingly focused on the mechanical aspects of some guns, rather than on the whole of guns and the behavior of individuals and the ongoing evolution of our society and culture.

    I appreciate it very much that people who are not familiar with guns and have no desire to become familiar with guns would look askance at gun enthusiasts and say “why do you people feel the need to run around with such dangerous objects? Are you lunatics?”

    I can understand that position, but it comes from ignorance, and you should understand that if you feel that way. Get that: you are passing judgement on something about which you are ignorant. Would you do the same on any other subject?

    I am very comfortable being in possession of objects which have the potential to cause serious harm. That potential – the ability to fire a projectile at high speed upon the pulling of a trigger – is the whole point of the thing. Whether it is to be fired at a clay target for fun, an animal to be killed and eaten, or a person who is imminently intending to harm me or my family, that is the whole point of the thing.

    And that last point is the one which should be first. We all have a fundamental human right to defend ourselves and our loved ones. Some of us choose not to pretend this is a world without monsters and we avail ourselves of the ability to defend ourselves as effectively as possible. If you choose not to do so, that is your right, but you cannot choose for me or anyone else.

    We’ll be happy to have a conversation, but we’d prefer it not be conducted with ignorance or emotion leading.

  7. By Steve Bean
    February 22, 2013 at 7:57 pm | permalink

    Are any shooters not avid? :-)

  8. By Suswhit
    February 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm | permalink

    I am not familar with nuclear bombs, I don’t own a nuclear bomb and yet I have the audacity to look askance at lunatics who want to have one for their own “protection.” Welcome to my crazy, mixed up world. For the record, I also make uninformed judgements about “diet” soda, running shoes worn as street shoes and people who drive unnecessarily large vehicles.

    I think the problem here is the word “ignorant.” While I don’t sleep with a gun in my bedside table, I do live in the same world you do. You learned to shoot as a kid with your dad. [1] When I was a kid my grandmother sent me to the cellar to ask my dad and grandfather what vegetable they wanted with dinner. Unbeknownst to me, they were in the process of skinning a recently shot deer. Up to their elbows in blood, they were monsters.[2] Truth is I am not ignorant. And while the rifles were kept locked up, I also knew that my dad’s pistol was “hidden” in the basement above the pool table. He thought that was a secret.

    I don’t believe in killing an animal so that you can thump your chest and say “mmmmmm, good.” Target practice, while harmless, is pointless if you don’t need to hone that skill so that you can take down another living thing.[3] Get a better hobby.[4] I lock my doors. I don’t knowingly put myself in dangerous situations. I think the world would be a better place if there were no guns. None. I am not living in a fantasy world were there are no monsters. I am also not living in a fantasy world where a person who is “imminently trying to harm me or my family” is lurking around any corner.[1]

    My experiences are just as valid as your experiences. “Get that.” Because you are passing judgement by claiming that your rights are more important than mine. Second hand cigarette smoke comes to mind.

    [1] Emotional leading.
    [2] I forgot to ask about the vegetable.
    [3] I don’t eat animals.
    [4] Gardening is nice.

  9. By Suswhit
    February 24, 2013 at 12:59 am | permalink

    Re: #4 I disagree. I thought that line was a kind of trite way to say that the experience of shooting the real gun was so impressive that the son needed no further instruction on the matter. Real gun or nerf. And on the contrary I think the words need to be said over and over again.

  10. February 25, 2013 at 8:47 am | permalink

    If folks are curious, they’re welcome to just ask me about my gun storage and safety practices, as a father of two small, curious children. I’m afraid my answer may be lengthy (which is why I didn’t go into detail in the column), but might also be illuminating (based on conversations I’ve had with readers and family members since drafting the column).

  11. By Ricebrnr
    February 25, 2013 at 9:27 am | permalink

    Are your kids old enough and if so, have you considered putting them in an Eddie Eagle class? Both my kids (12 and 7) have been through the class.

    At home I also taught them what makes them go bang, so as to avoid doing that. They also know that anytime that they wish to see and touch or have any questions, all they need to do is ask.

    My son (the older) also shoots with me occasionally. I have found that hiding things from curious children only serves to amplify the curiosity and leaves them no knowledge if a situation should arise (i.e. not under my control / at a playdate).

  12. By JamesJefferson
    February 27, 2013 at 8:52 pm | permalink

    I liked the article until I got to the part about 100,000 gun injuries this year. Could you please let us know where you arrived at that figure? Does that include the men and women of our armed forces? People killed by law enforcement? While this amount might be close to CDC reporting, it surely includes accidents; therefore I suggest that your statement …”almost all will be fired in a conscious attempt to cause harm” to be inaccurate, at best, and rhetorical nonsense at worst. What is considered ‘almost all’? One quarter? Half? Three quarters?

    To the commentator who decries target practice as pointless, I would remind all that target shooting is an olympic sport, in fact, women’s air rifle is the first medal awarded in the summer olympics. The university has a rifle team, ‘target shooting’ is a recognized and long-standing sport with worldwide participation, even countries with total gun bans make exception for their olympic shooting teams. As for your father keeping the pistol unsecured in the house, that is not only dangerous, but illegal. The ownership and safe use of a firearm comes with heavy legal and moral burdens, ones not to be taken lightly. One needn’t fear the well trained and law-abiding gun owner, hunter or competitive shooter next door, it is the casual gun owner, hyped up by fantasies of home defense, HALO and violent media, we need to look out for.

  13. February 28, 2013 at 11:40 am | permalink

    Latest figures from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control are for 2011. 73,883 non-fatal firearm injuries of which 59,208 (80%) were violence-related (as opposed to unintentional), and another 16,451 BB/pellet gun injuries. It doesn’t say but I’m pretty sure this does not include armed forces.

  14. February 28, 2013 at 11:46 am | permalink

    re: #11

    My kids are six (almost seven) and just one day shy of one year. Right now one-on-one is best for my son, with the added benefit that he’s *very* impressed with my brother-in-law–who is one of the most levelheaded and responsible gun owners I’ve ever known, and an excellent shot. I will be very pleased if he comes to emulate his uncle.

    I likewise strongly disagree with hiding guns. Mine are stored either broken down or inoperable in double-locked hard-sided cases. Ammunition (of which I keep little on hand) is stored under separate lock and key. It probably bears mentioning that I don’t believe in keeping firearms for home protection–which is a personal decision I have no intention of seeing mandated nation wide. Some families have very, very good reasons for wanting a loaded, operable firearm at hand. Mine is blessed to not be among them.

    I had no intention of implying that I *don’t* remind my son not to point guns at humans or pets–or, more precisely, I do warn him to always be aware of where the barrel (any barrel, NERF or otherwise) is pointing, if there is a human or animal in that direction, and whether or not the gun is cocked or loaded. I’m actually incapable of keeping these words from coming out of my mouth when I see him with a gun. It’s a reflex, like buckling my seat belt. What I meant to say was that the reminder has become redundant. Here’s an anecdote:

    When my boy was three-ish he started to get interested in his cousins toy guns–which all either NERF, ping-pong, or the sorts of play guns that only make sounds. I don’t like to see children playing war games. It drives me nuts to see people point guns at each other–even in play, even those that shoot nothing–and I can’t stand having a barrel pointed at me. So, I wouldn’t permit him to play with these guns. Nonetheless, as boys do, he started making gun-like thinks (from blocks, sticks–you know how kids are) and pointing them at whatever, regardless of how patiently or angrily I explained that this was not done. My wife and I discussed the “no guns” policy, and decided that maybe it would make *more* sense for him to have a rubber-band gun, so that the actual cause-and-effect would be evident. I built him a rubber band gun, he continued to be terrible at attending to where the barrel pointed, and we ended up putting it on a high shelf. There were no further guns (apart from squirt guns–on the topic of which, I vastly prefer the sort that look like giant syringes, and not like guns at all) until after we went shooting, and he decided to buy his own NERF gun. And, miraculously, he’s done very well at attending to where it was pointed, whether it was operable, and how it is stored. Part of me thought “well, he’s just older now, and older kids are better at paying attention.” But as I’ve talked with other parents, I’ve found many who’ve struggled with the same “barrel awareness” problem even as their kids have gotten much older (11, 12, etc.) Anecdotally, it seems like those kids who have only had Airsoft (sp?) and NERF guns that struggle with this most, where-as those who have handled firearms with attentive, responsible adults have an easier time connecting the dotted line from muzzle to damage.

    re: #12

    I’m glad you asked! Those numbers are purposefully vague (and actually rounded down), but come from CDC reports for 2010 (the latest year for which complete figures were available when I began my research in December 2012). These numbers are available here [link] and here [link] , but you’ll find the interface to be a total PITA. In next month’s columns I’ll be exploring *painfully* precise numbers, and there might even be bar graphs!

    To review, this is the claim:

    “About 100,000 Americans can expect to have high-velocity lead enter their bodies this year. Almost all of those will be fired in a conscious attempt to cause harm. About a third of these lead recipients will die from their lead. Almost all of those will be in acts of intentional violence, mostly acts of self-harm.”

    The 100,000 (which is rounded down) includes both fatal and non-fatal injuries within the US, so nothing involving service people apart from the significant number of suicides that occur on US soil, or accidents that occur while they are stateside.

    Of the 100,000, about 75,000 were non fatal injuries. ~60,000 were “violence related,” a category that includes assaults, suicides, and “legal intervention” (i.e., law enforcement injury suspects or bystanders in the course of rightfully enforcing the law–because someone will ask, there were about 1,000 legal intervention firearm injuries in 2010). So, of 75k non-fatal gun injuries, 60k resulted from intentionally violent action of one human against another or him/herself. I think we can agree that this constitutes “most,” even if you think “almost all” is hyperbole–although I note that “almost all” refers not to injuries, but to deaths.

    Of the ~33k gun-related deaths in 2010 (Yes, as I said above, I rounded *down* from the actual 2010 numbers. I’ll give you full, verified numbers for 2010 in the next column), ~19k were suicides, ~13k were homicides, and 600 were accidents. I’ve don’t have the legal intervention gun-deaths number for 2010 handy–I’ll need to look it up again–but I recall it being around 300. Again, I imagine that we can all agree that 32k of ~33k constitutes “almost all.”

    I don’t want my tone to sound “scoldy” here, because I think it is *totally* reasonable to doubt my numbers. I was *shocked* when I looked them up, and ended up double checking them several times and touching base with lawyers and academics I knew to make sure I was understanding the classifications properly. I had *no idea* that such a huge portion of gun deaths in the US were suicides, that such a *tiny* portion were accidents, or that so few were law-enforcement related. Reading the news had left me with the strong impression that *most* gun deaths were either accidents involving small children or murders, and that many of these murders were law-enforcement related. This is clearly not the case.

    All apologies for both the wordiness and typos above; I’m expected elsewhere and need to get rolling.