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Posted at 9:00 PM ET, 01/26/2010

Why I stopped needing a gun

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Jim Chapman
Washington

The headline on Colbert I. King’s Jan. 24 Outlook book review, “Why does a young man buy a gun?” reminded me of something I learned once.

I’ve always liked guns. As hardware, they speak of compact precision and power, sort of like being able to cradle a Corvette in the palm of your hand.

I’d been a crack marksman as a youth and a gunnery officer in the Navy, where I’d been able to fire the gamut of small arms as well as the 5-inch guns on my ship. So it was no surprise that, after moving to Washington and seeing an ad for a pistol range in Northern Virginia, I went to the range one afternoon and shot off a box of ammo. It was kind of fun, and I had the usual number of bull’s-eyes.

Afterward, there was a little conversation in my head that taught me something. It went like this: “Do I want to do this again or maybe buy a gun?” The answer was no.

So I asked myself a question, “Why not?” It surprised me when the answer came back, like a voice spoken by someone else in my head: “Because I’m not angry.”

I realized that when a gun speaks, what comes out of its mouth is an expression of anger — sometimes intentional, sometimes subliminal — but anger nonetheless. And I don’t need a gun to speak for me, because I’m not angry.

So, back to the question: Why does a young man buy a gun?

By washingtonpost.com editors  | January 26, 2010; 9:00 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, guns  
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Comments

The aging process is interesting. When I was younger, I was an avid hunter, now, only fishing rods spend time in my truck. This isn't to speak for everyone, but as a middle aged man, I don't have a need to hunt anymore.

Now as the question. Young men are dangerous with everything they touch, period. So are crazy people. I would have greatly protested your view when I was younger, because I was properly trained in handling firearms as a child and handled them correctly in my teens and twenties. Really, though, I wouldn't care less if stringent safety courses (like six month long ones) were instituted for anyone interested in purchasing a handgun in the US. Note, for long guns or shotguns, this type of training would not be so stringent, because many people do live outside of the megalopolis and need varmint guns.

Posted by: drc231 | January 26, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

maybe this all reflects a kind of maturity that is really required to responsibly own fire-arms, a maturity missing from some young gun owners?

Posted by: frommelbourne | January 27, 2010 4:52 AM | Report abuse

Need or anger has nothing to do with it.
Everyone has their "thing,"; whatever it is that catches and holds their attention. For tens of millions of us in the US, that thing is a fine firearm.
Personally, I only get angry when people assume the right to take my gun away from me, or imply that I am weird or dangerous because I like guns. I assure you, it is really quite a normal interest.

Posted by: montemanm1 | January 27, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Owning and even carrying a gun has nothing to do about being angry!!!! For me its all about having the ability to protect my wife and two daughters from those that would do us harm. I met anger at the hands of 2 armed Cuban Mariel boat lift criminals on January 29th 1988........
Having a gun literally saved my life that day. The 2 men began firing at me and i was able to defend my life. For those interested , my story can be found in Lessons In Armed America. I am one chapter of the book. Sir, i have never been angry when shooting guns with my wife and children for fun. Or when attending a shooting course. I was not even angry when 2 men were trying to KILL ME!!! I was just concerned about getting myself safe again. If you were angry and carrying a gun.........i'd suggest that you seek professional help!!!!

Posted by: vincentsavage | January 27, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Having read this article, I'm not convinced this author understand need. He doesn't NEED a gun standing in a safe, secured location where someone else is looking after his safety. He may find that he needs an appropriate tool, possibly a gun, when he becomes responsible for his own safety.

Of course, his assertion that anger is the reason young people purchase guns is asinine. It's unfortunate that instead of understanding a different view point, the author chooses to make wildly baseless assertions as to the motives of the literally millions of americans who exercise their right to own guns.

Posted by: nate68 | January 27, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

What about guns in the hands of the citizens of a country to fend off an oppressive government??? Look at nations where its citizens have been stripped of their right to keep and bear arms. Look at 6,000,000 jews along with 6,000,000 others who were gassed by the Nazis. Imagine what 12 million people armed could do to a murderous group of men such as the nazi machine!!!! The arguement is all about being a free man and guns provide men more freedom then those that leave their freedom and safety to others.

Posted by: vincentsavage | January 27, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Your question is an interesting one but your answer is both simplistic and narrow in it's scope and vision.
I have carried a gun professionally and personally for the last 30 plus years. As a 17 year old Marine Corps recruit I was trained in the martial tradition of all Marines and gained a great respect and appreciation for weapons of all types. I hev never been an "angry" person nor am I a great fan of violence, in fact I have spent The better part of my life mitigating the anger and violence of others (law enforcement). Yet, I am above all a realist and I know that the power of the state to protect me and my family is weak at best. This reality leaves the protection of my person, family and property up to me. To accomplish this end the only reasonable tool is a firearm, a tool that allows me if needed to engage multiple persons with force enough to end their activities against me and mine. I do not leave home each day looking to harm anyone, nor do I wish harm upon anyone, but I refuse to be at the mercy of another person's whim. This reality places the blame for my action against one who would do me harm directly on them, no one has a right to assault me , steal from me, nor harm my property or family without fear of my resistance. If more people would adopt this response rather than diffusing their personal responsibilty to the state crime rates would plummet. It is only in places were people leave the control and safety of their persons and property to the state that crime becomes an overiding problem and forces people to barricade themselves inside their homes and gated communities.
I applaud the service of the original poster and thank him for his service. Just please don't paint gun owners with a broad brush and imply that we are all "angry" person looking to do harm to others. Firearms are nothing but tools, used by responsible people they allow for a much more secure and polite society. Removing the most effective means of defense from a population allows the predatory elements to run amok with little fear of the state or citizens.

Should anyone ask I am a resident of the great State of Texas and I am a Peace Officer and Marine Corps veteran of 8 years.

Posted by: USMCVIKING3 | January 27, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I do not want a gun in my possession. The day I feel so unsafe in my own country that I need to carry a gun to go to the store, the mall, outside in my yard, is the day I don't want to live in this country. I refuse to live in such fear!

As for those who want guns to defend themselves against their own government, the same rules apply. Do you feel THAT unsafe or threatened? Is it worth it? My army has guns, so I need 'em too? Well, my army has nukes so can I have one of those too?

Posted by: GenuineRisk | January 27, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

This is all very fine, so long as Mr. Chapman understands that he can only speak for himself. If the argument is "since I don't need one, nobody needs one", he can stow it.

I've owned guns for 25 years. Anger never had anything to do with it.

Posted by: EnjoyEverySandwich | January 27, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

GenuineRisk,

Wake up and smell the coffee, where do you live that you think nothing bad can happen to you? You must live in an idilic fantasy land where everyone loves everyone and no one covets the possesions of others. I live in a very small town, yet we still have serious assaults and property crimes. I will clue you in on a Police secret, most crimes reported to the police NEVER make it into the paper, the Police need to keep the up the facade of order even thought there is none.

As far as trusting the Gov with a monoploy of force....history proves where that leads. Good Luck!

Posted by: USMCVIKING3 | January 27, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

It would appear that Mr. Chapman has a very immature understanding of guns, use of force, and human nature. Very few people use a gun out of anger. Those that do very quickly find themselves either in trouble with the law or dead at the hands of somebody who is more proficient than them. I personally use a gun not because I am angry at or hate what is before me, but because I love what is behind me and will do what is necessary to protect my family and myself.

Posted by: mooseblw023 | January 27, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I am glad that someone who apparently listens to the voices in his head has avoided gun possession. I would hope he looks for professional help if this continues.

Guns do not speak, they are a tool that can be used for good or evil. Just as a Corvette can be used to drive to work or used as a getaway vehicle. While the author may have had anger issues in the past, it is a fallacy for him to take his reasons and attempt to project them on the population as a whole.

When I look at all of the law enforcement offices and members of the armed forces that have weapons I do not consider them angry. I consider them to be people who have a job to do and that job uses the tool known as a gun.

Posted by: allipscomb | January 27, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I once read a comment that said "You may not believe in guns and you may not believe in God, but when someone is kicking your door down at 3 AM you are going to call somebody with a gun and pray they get there on time". It was then I realized the delusional hypocrisy of getting somebody else to protect myself and family when I was not willing or unable to step up to the plate. You only need a gun if you are morally responsible. It has taken my time, money, training and effort to come to the place where I could act responsibly. Some people are not willing. If you cannot accept the responsibility of protecting yourself and your loved ones from the growing number of increasingly violent predators in our society then you don't need a gun. My choice to be ready is no guarantee of safety, but it at least gives me a chance. I take that responsibility very seriously.

We are socially conditioned to be docile and mindless sheep. This is a fact. But for some the intrinsic nature to protect and defend the helpless is stronger than the conditioning. These people become Doctors, EMT's, Firemen, Police, Soldiers and yes responsible citizens who carry guns. You can bet the merciless beast of our society are out there looking for the weak and unwary. Just read the newspaper.

I will admit a lot of people who refuse to accept this responsibility are in fact not emotionally mature enough to own, let alone carry a firearm. It's just the way it is. It is counterproductive to push them to do so, only educate them if they are willing to listen. There is a cultural paradigm in our Psychologically Castrated (PC) society that intones it is not the individual that counts but the herd. I would counter to say the first responsibility to the herd is to protect the individual. To protect against the predator. That is what I choose to do. Other views may vary.

Posted by: fidalgoman | January 27, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

My sons and I enjoy skeet shooting as a family hobby. I didn't realize our enjoyment in busting a few clay birds made us angry men! Now that I know I pledge to shoot straighter and frown when I pull the trigger! If Mr. Chapman only shoots when he is angry he seems to be the one with the problem. I hope he gets help soon. Me, I just enjoy being outdoors and busting those birds! If that labels me as "angry" I'll wear the label proudly!

Posted by: Ken430TX | January 27, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Owning and even carrying a gun has nothing to do about being angry!!!! For me its all about having the ability to protect my wife and two daughters from those that would do us harm. I met anger at the hands of 2 armed Cuban Mariel boat lift criminals on January 29th 1988........
Having a gun literally saved my life that day. The 2 men began firing at me and i was able to defend my life. For those interested , my story can be found in Lessons In Armed America. I am one chapter of the book. Sir, i have never been angry when shooting guns with my wife and children for fun. Or when attending a shooting course. I was not even angry when 2 men were trying to KILL ME!!! I was just concerned about getting myself safe again. If you were angry and carrying a gun.........i'd suggest that you seek professional help!!!!

Posted by: vincentsavage
==============================

Vincent Savage I do not believe you..!!

I have seen this very same identical Hearsay example on other posts in the WP.

Owning a fire arm is about power and control.
AND
angry people with any weapon are dangerous.

The classic Weekend Faux Warrior mentality..

Thank you for expressing your GOP practiced Prejudices.


Fei Hu

Posted by: Fei_Hu | January 27, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

My sons and I enjoy skeet shooting as a family hobby. I didn't realize our enjoyment in busting a few clay birds made us angry men! Now that I know I pledge to shoot straighter and frown when I pull the trigger! If Mr. Chapman only shoots when he is angry he seems to be the one with the problem. I hope he gets help soon. Me, I just enjoy being outdoors and busting those birds! If that labels me as "angry" I'll wear the label proudly!

Posted by: Ken430TX
======================

Then you are ANGRY...!!!

What are you angry about??

Fei Hu

Posted by: Fei_Hu | January 27, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Fei Hu,

Nice attempt at baiting....

I thought all leftists were more "touchy feely" than your obviously confrontational agressive manner shows. It is probably best a man (I use the term loosely) of your temperment leave the ownership and use of firearms to the grownups in the room.

Vincent is a man of proven honor and your baseless attack of him shows you to be a person of weak mind and poor upbrining.

Posted by: USMCVIKING3 | January 27, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I have been a competative shooter for most of my life. Additionally I was a police officer for seven years. I consider shooting a sport. No different from golf, tennis, or bowling. I am simply trying to repeat a given movement time after time in exactly the same manner to achieve a desired effect. To put a "ball" in a certain place exactly the same each time. If you ask a tennis player or gulfer or bowler the secret to being successful, they will tell you that mastering the pproach, the stroke, or the serve, or swing is the secret. The only difference between these sports and mine is the size of my movements, and my ball is traveling 900 to 3000 feet per second. The argument always comes up that guns were designed to kill. Who care what the original design was for. Yes, defence is a consideration. However if you think that you can not be killed with a tennis racket,golf club, or bowling ball, you need to spend some time with your local police Dept. ride along program. Anger has never come into the equation with me except when I am angry with myself because of my poor purformance, and the fact that I have let down my team mates.

Posted by: zorros | January 27, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Fei Hu,

If you do not believe me then read chapter 7 of Lessons in Armed America or do a search of public records in Tampa , Florida.

I wonder why i sit here and defend American Rights and Freedom to a people who will not want to hear any truths that differ from their points of view???

I guess that i have stated my opinion and MY EXPERIENCE and you all may choose to believe me or not. To those that aren't angry or to afraid of caring for their personal safety to carry guns--- kudos. To the others, that is your right as well.

Posted by: vincentsavage | January 27, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Genuine Risk:

Real men do not want your neutered/unisexed presence in the USA. Your frail and estrogen laced ilk weakens the gene pool. Please feel free to leave and join whatever metrosexual paradise you think exists out there.

Posted by: RJFried | January 27, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Fei Hu, you claime that you "have seen this very same identical Hearsay example on other posts in the WP." In case you didn't notice, what Vincent posted wasn't hearsay, but first-hand experience. If you choose not to believe him, that is your perogative, but it is pretty short-sighted. When some misunderstood and disadvantaged member of an extra-legal fraternity (i.e. gang-banger) selects you or your loved one to be a victim and you only have seconds to act, what will you do - roll over and wet yourself?

Posted by: mooseblw023 | January 27, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Why does Mr. Chapman equate firing a gun with feelings or expressions of anger? I was also a gunnery officer in the Navy, and a rated Gunner's Mate before that. I fired thousands of rounds of ammo from .22LR to 5-inch/54 over the years, and not once felt angry doing so. I think Mr. Chapman is trying to generalize his own individual feelings about guns to the larger population, and he is wrong to do so. If guns for him represent an immature outlet for expression of anger, so be it - he should not own any. But for all the rest of us, who manage our emotions without resort to the display and use of tools, we are getting along just fine with our guns.

Posted by: tarheelgunner | January 27, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Idiot.

While you might not be angry now, how will you feel when someone breaks into your home and rapes your wife and neither of you had the TOOLS that could have saved her.

Perhaps you are so calm and peacefull that you still won't be angry, but I bet your wife will be!

Me? I'm not angry, but I expect and hope that I would become angry enough to be able to do something to protect my family if the need came.

And I darn well insist on having the appropriate tool (and a Kimber 1911 is one of them)to do so in any event.

Posted by: Davidsonville | January 27, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

To the man that argues the point of men carrying guns and living in fear couldn't be any further from the truth. And he suggests that we should go live in another country if we are afraid of our government too. Well sir, allow me to tell you. I do not live in FEAR. If you only knew me , you'd would be embarrassed about how far from the truth your statements are. Oh, BTW i do have a home outside the USA. Its in Colombia in fact. I bought that home when i came back from living in the Middle-East for 6 years. (Kuwait & UAE)

And Yes, i carry a gun in Colombia as well. Why??? Well, i certainly ain't afraid. Cause if i were i probably would have never left home ( South Bronx ) in my youth to Join the USMC and put myself in harms way. But i carry one so that should anyone try to bring me harm or to that of my family........ I will have my courage , a tool at my disposal and i will quietly run Psalms 144 thru my mind. Blessed is the Lord My Rock : who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle... Oh , i trust you want to attack men who believe in GOD also right about now. Or are you afraid of Men who cling to GOD & GUNS?????

Posted by: vincentsavage | January 27, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

While I take seriously comments made by the naval gunnery officer, I disagree with his implied conclusion that anyone who buys a gun is "angry".
I am a 61 year old former marine infantry officer, so when it comes to exposure to small arms, I think that I trump.
Weapons in the hands of qualified, law abiding citizens serve a variety if purposes, the foremost of which is self defense.
As competent and responsive as our police forces are (and they are!), they will only arrive after the crime has been committed and just in time to write a report. If a citizen happens to be a target of a criminal act, the only defense that he has lies in his capacity to defend himself effectively. This has nothing to do with "anger". It has to do with common sense, which is clearly in short supply among the gun control crowd.

Posted by: miamimarine0302 | January 27, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

This argument always boils down to the same thing. Liberal men are spineless, gutless, cowards. heck, they are not even men. Just biological males.

You can never get a liberal male to understand the concept of standing up against evil. A liberal male is incapable of such an action. A liberal male would not defend his family. He would flee and leave them to fend for themselves. That is his very essence.

Posted by: RJFried | January 27, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I once owned a handgun which I kept in my home for personal protection. I sold it when I moved to a different state, but would like to purchase a new one at some point for the same reason. I agree with those of you who say that gun owners aren't necessarily angry, but the author is correct that at least some young men who buy guns are in fact angry (I know or have met plenty of them in inner-cities across the country).

That said ... those of you who are advocating for the purchase of guns to protect yourselves against your government are either severely delusional or certifiably insane. If your government (with the largest military budget in the world - $513.3 billion in 2009) really wanted you dead, do you actually think that a few handguns, or even assault rifles, would be able to save you? Not on your life (literally). Look at the tens of thousands dead in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hands of our military might (think predator drones, tanks and laser guided bunker-busting missiles) and tell me if you even stand half a chance.

Posted by: thatdewd | January 27, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Thatdewd:

And against all that might, the Taliban has yet to succumb after 9 years. And just a couple of years ago the Iraqi insurgents were successfully standing up against all that might.

Get a grip on reality. Stop living in Peter Pan's world.

Posted by: RJFried | January 27, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

RJFRIED,

I wonder if your not a liberal trying to imflame other readers here with that comment??

I've seen liberal Homosexuals hand out plenty O pain during a fight. So not all liberals fall under that statement of yours. Although a large percentage do seem rather "SOFT" to me. I look not at the Physical appearance to determine if some one is liberal, but rather their belief system. Lets not turn this into a mud slinging contest guys and gals.

Posted by: vincentsavage | January 27, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I misread your post, and i confirm my opinion about you changed after reading your second post. Please disregard my answer ........

Posted by: vincentsavage | January 27, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Being angry has nothing to do with why most people own guns. I am not mad at the deer or the paper targets but I do enjoy shooting and in fact I am happy when shooting. If you don't want to own a gun that is fine it is or for the time being is a free country. But don't tell me I cannot own one. Remember 60 million gun owners did not commit a crime today. Why does the left always want to punish them?

Posted by: Pilot1 | January 27, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

We usually elicit in others what we feel ourselves (fear. hope, anxiety, anger, sadness etc).

You have certainly stirred up some resentment if not anger in many readers. Perhaps you haven't dealt with your anger as well as you had hoped.

Posted by: ewsnyder | January 27, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

If you don't want to own or carry a firearm, that's your choice, and I certainly don't think you should be forced to do so (assuming that your job doesn't actually require it). However, your article makes no sense.

"I don't need shoes, because I am not sleepy."

"I don't need gasoline, because I am not embarrassed."

"I don't need a car, because I am not afraid."

Posted by: bblackmoor | January 27, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

This author writes, "I realized that when a gun speaks, what comes out of its mouth is an expression of anger...".

This statement reveals a disturbingly abnormal motivation for having or using a firearm. It is decidedly not a motivation for most gun owners. This man should seek counseling.

Posted by: drgo | January 27, 2010 10:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm not angry, Mr. Chapman. I simply wish to exercise my Second Amendment right to defend myself and loved onces from the fatherless, soulless, dead-eyed killers who are armed dangerously to the teeth and who surround me in my Northeast D.C. neighborhood. No anger; just a perfectly rational instinct for self-preservation.

Posted by: mckdarrenDC | January 28, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

To the Happy Gun Owners:

Buy Viaga and even though that smell of Hoppes gun oil must be seductive, quit cleaning your Rod!

To the guy in NE DC: Not as bad as SE DC, but why would you want to live there?

Posted by: rtreff | January 28, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I grew up in a rural community (I'm still in one) with guns. Not just your average ho-hum pump action shotguns and 9mm's, but a veritable armory of weapons. Automatics, black powder rifles, .22 caliber everythings, semi automatic handguns (the antique Colt revolver is beautiful) and semi auto and automatic shotguns (my favorite was the barrel clipped). Birthday parties quickly became shooting parties. Canvas covered tables emerged, laden with an assortment of weaponry. Cans of shaken Walmart soda make great targets and come cheaper per unit than most paper targets. Shooting targets is a fun, expensive and noisy way to spend your day.

In my lifetime of exposure to guns, I find that guns purchased as "security" weapons do not prevent security breaches and typically are never used. They prevent premature fear of the user... and not much else.

The US is a power country. We have a love affair with guns. We shoot each other at alarming rates. It's unfair to lump all gun owners into the realm of violent shootings, but it is also unfair to say that gun violence doesn't exist partly because of the prevalence of ownership.

Posted by: trident420 | January 28, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

There are two types of people who by handguns.

1. Criminals
2. Those who recognize the moral imparitive that requires them to defend themselves and their loved ones against criminals.

There are two types of people who don't buy handguns.

1. Cowards
2. Monks

Dude, which are you?

Thank you for your service to our country, but you need to rethink your moral standing.

Posted by: Davidsonville | January 28, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

So you think the only reason to own a gun is if you are angry? How about sport, self defense, exercising a right, hunting. Do you think the only reason to own a gun is to make angry offensive acts upon others? Are you discounting the millions of lives that have been saved by defensive gun uses over the years? Do you think the police and military shoot people because they are angry? If so then every one of them should be in prison.

Posted by: paramedic70002 | January 29, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I own several guns, and I hve occasionally borrowed my boyfriend's handgun, and NOBODY will EVER take away my guns. I love to hunt, and I definitely would also shoot to protect myself in a time of danger.

What worries me about guns of ANY type are the lack of unifom laws across this country, protecting us all from the nutcases! There is a Trading Post kind of program on the radio where ANYONE can buy or sell firearms to ANYBODY! The same guy calls up frequently wanting MORE guns for his "gun collection"!! There will be no mental clinic check, no paper sent into any government office, no I.D. check, no NOTHING! This is no longer a collection, as he's been calling for years! This is an ARSENAL! There are numerous people like this, and still, there are so few and rarely enforced gun safety restrictions. It should be harder to buy, sell, and trade firearms than we currently have. Every single day there is at least one murder in the paper by use of a firearm. Obviously, these people are NOT mentally stable and should have had a harder time getting access to any firearms.

A person has to go thru all sorts of tests and licensing and fees to get a driver's license, but a firearm, that should NEVER so easily be in the hands of any mentally unstable person, has no enforced restrictions at all.

As I have said, I am a hunter, and I own firearms, but it wouldn't bother me one iota if I had to sign 10 papers and wait a month to buy a firearm. I would simply have to THINK ahead~~a very good wait, as a person in a heated passion would be eliminated from being able to instantly get a firearm too.

Hunting is a very athletic and fascinating sport, and wonderful when done alone, as a group, or as a family. A great variety of wild game can be enjoyed in the healthy diet. But, good sense still prevails.

Guns don't kill people. NUTCASES kill people, and MUCH EASIER when there are no identification or legal restrictions on the purchase of firearms.

Posted by: Maerzie | January 30, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

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