Guns, Anger and Zen

monks-w-gunsOn August 7, 2011 a deranged asshole with a gun killed eight members of the family of a close friend of mine, including her 11 year-old nephew. Like most such perpetrators in America, he had acquired the gun easily, cheaply, and legally.

I have been appalled by the pathetic state of our gun laws since I was old enough to know about them. When John Lennon was shot by a madman in New York City, that really finalized it for me. But on August 7, 2011 I made the conscious choice to never, ever be nice about this subject again.

There is no middle ground for me when it comes to this issue. The gun laws in the USA are fucked and need to be changed. At the very least it needs to be harder and more expensive to get a gun in this country. That won’t fix everything, but it will fix a lot of the problems.

Don’t bother trying to change my mind. I will not listen. I don’t need to. You are wrong. What’s more, your uncaring greed, irrational paranoia and inexcusable ignorance are directly responsible for the deaths of my friend’s family members. I do not like you and do not want to talk to you. I hope that is clear.

I am also a Buddhist.

Buddhists are supposed to be tolerant of opinions other than our own. We’re supposed to keep an open mind. At least that’s what Buddhists on TV shows are like. They kinda float around smiling and saying cute things and never get mad about anything at all. If you say you’re a Buddhist, you’re supposed to be exactly like that.

Of course that’s just nonsense. But Buddhists really are supposed to understand that we are not different from anyone else in the world. We are all intimately connected. Even if you hold unreasonable and stupid views about guns, you are an expression of the universe just like me. In the deepest and truest sense I love you. Even as I hate your fucking guts.

The idea of universal oneness is very appealing when you’re talking about how we are all one with the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees. It sounds super nice when you’re with close friends or at a rave tripping your brains out and grooving to the sounds and lights with a few hundred like-minded humans.

But what do you do when it comes to something you absolutely cannot abide by? Maybe for you gun control is not the issue that brings this out. But each of us has a line that we are unwilling or unable to cross. What’s yours?

This is hard for me every time there is yet another completely avoidable mass shooting in the USA. I get angry. I can’t even make myself feel better by recalling that there are always other ways of looking at things. There aren’t any other ways that make any sense at all.

And yet I took a vow not to give way to anger. That does not mean I have vowed never to get mad again. That would be impossible. But I have vowed to make an effort not to allow anger to control me, not to speak out of anger, not to act out of anger.

We have to be careful here with words, though. The word “anger” means a number of different things. The anger we’re looking at when we make our vows as Buddhists is the emotion of anger. But in English, we also use the word “anger” to indicate a somewhat different condition that is largely unemotional. If I say that I am angry about the state of gun laws in America it does not necessarily mean I am filled with boiling rage over them. That could be the case. But it could also mean that I see a situation that urgently needs to be changed and I am committed to being part of that change. We sometimes use the word “anger” as a way to indicate this kind of intense urgency.

In my own case, it’s a bit of both. When I heard about the shootings in Oregon last week, I was emotionally angry. As I write this piece now, I am still emotionally angry. If you’re not angry when things like this happen over and over and over again and no one will do anything about it then something is very wrong with you. That’s not evidence of some kind of Buddhist equanimity. It’s evidence that you should seek psychiatric help.

So what should we as Buddhists do at a time like this?

It’s a question I get asked often and one I’ve been asking myself these past few days. But the problem is it’s the wrong question.

What I should do is unimportant. What I am doing is important. So I observe. I watch the anger rise. I don’t try to stop it. I don’t tell myself I’m wrong for feeling what I’m feeling. Or if I do find myself telling myself that, I take a step back and see even that for what it is — a thought reaction born out of the habit of trying to escape from reality.

At times when the emotion of anger is clouding my judgment, I try to do only what is necessary. If there’s a shooter right in front of me, I will (hopefully) act right then and there rather than waiting for anger to subside. But in the case of the on-going battle for sensible gun laws in America, it’s better to wait until I feel a little more balanced. I’ll admit I made a few angry Facebook posts this past week. But on the grand scale of things angry Facebook posts don’t really count for much.

As practitioners of Zen, we try to respond clearly and not out of our accumulated habits and messy emotions. My own practice over the years has often been about this. It’s never easy to do. But it does get a little easier with practice.

And for now, that’s all I can say.

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86 Responses

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  1. Mettai
    Mettai October 9, 2015 at 10:15 am |

    Anger can provide the energy to act in desperate situations. The key is figuring out how to use the energy with clear awareness. I don’t often know how, but I try.

  2. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 9, 2015 at 10:27 am |

    From 2011:

    The statistics, which come from the American Community Survey that queried three million households, speak for themselves. Consider:

    Employment among young adults between the ages of 16 to 29 was at its lowest levels since the end of World War II. Just 55 percent were employed, compared with 67 percent in 2000.

    Nearly 6 million Americans between the ages of 25 to 34 lived at their parents’ homes last year.

    Young men are nearly twice as likely as women to live with their parents.

    Marriages among young adults hit a new low. Just 44 percent of Americans in that age group were married last year.

    Some of the numbers were so stark that it prompted Harvard Economist Richard Freeman to tell the Associated Press that young adults “will be scarred and will be called the ‘lost generation’ in that their careers would not be the same way if we had avoided this economic disaster.”

    Single, Jobless and Living at Home: Will Economy Create a ‘Lost Generation’? BY MURREY JACOBSON

    And from an abstract by a psychologist who studied the profiles of the shooters:

    They become and remain fixated and obsessed with rejection by what they see as an elite in-group whom they see as having unfairly achieved success. Instead of transcending the rejection, they formulate plans to annihilate the transgressors, which they justify as vengeance for the transgressions made against them. The self-exacerbating and obsessive qualities of these perceptions are more consistent with paranoid thinking than with psychopathy.


    Yes, background checks at gunshows across the nation, I’d favor registration and licensing and insurance as well. At the same time, I see the shootings as symptomatic of a larger problem in our society, concerning the difficulty of breaking into the market for meaningful work in America.

    The standardization of the modality of education in our school systems and the acceptance of entertainment in isolation as a way of life probably hasn’t helped, either…

    1. John W.
      John W. October 10, 2015 at 8:52 am |

      Those same social conditions apply here in Canada,and in other “western” countries as well,but the U.S. is the only place where these massacres happen frequently. Strict gun control laws are an obvious difference between the States and other western democracies.

  3. zucchinipants
    zucchinipants October 9, 2015 at 10:35 am |

    That fella who killed your friend wasn’t a “deranged asshole”; he was an expression of the universe, a Buddha.

    I don’t know how you can say that you fundamentally love people while simultaneously “hating their fucking guts”. Is that some kind of midwestern faux sincerity?

    “The merciful see that there is no Buddha way to attain; the sorrowful see that there are no beings to deliver”

    Don’t pretend that your anger management issues are universal.

    1. sri_barence
      sri_barence October 9, 2015 at 12:19 pm |

      In the Kwan-Um school, there is a saying that “You understand one, but you don’t understand two.” This means clinging to the absolute, or to the relative, rather than accepting that both can be true and valid at the same time. In other words, Brad (or anyone) can love and hate deranged assholes with guns.

      1. zucchinipants
        zucchinipants October 9, 2015 at 1:26 pm |

        Is it clinging when it’s in response to someone else’s clinging (like the post here)? Or is it clinging only when you don’t like to hear it? 😉

        I don’t see any evidence that Brad appreciates the “one”. I see him justifying his anger issues.

        He said that if you don’t feel anger in response to a shooting, there’s something wrong with you and you ought to see a psychiatrist. Sounds to me like he’s trying to validate his over-emotional (and ineffective) reactions.

        Hey, let’s ask what the folks in Syria think about the latest school shooting in America. If they’re not angry about it, then they must be psychos, according to Brad.

    2. drocloc
      drocloc October 10, 2015 at 11:19 am |


      Dogen teaches that we have the precept “Do not kill” because we cannot kill.

      We do not have the power to create life force or to destroy it.
      Something cannot be made from nothing, nor can some thing be turned into nothing.

      Buddha was asked what to kill: ” Only anger.”

  4. Cygni
    Cygni October 9, 2015 at 10:54 am |

    There was a man tragically shot and killed in my city this week during a robbery. Thankfully such incidents are rarer in Canada and pretty much everywhere else in the world thanks to more sane weapons laws and culture.

  5. GennaC
    GennaC October 9, 2015 at 11:35 am |

    Why can’t clear-eyed Bodhisattvas sever the red thread?

    I was meditating a lot a few weeks ago and I ended up getting these extremely intense and disturbing memories of extremely poor and exploited children I met in Egypt about 10 years ago. I needed to do something. I HAD to do something. I could not let it pass. The memories were persistent and very painful. I was angry, and sad and desperate. I felt like I needed to find a place in Buddhism for my white-hot desperation to intervene. How can we have compassion and not intervene, if we can, when there is suffering?

    I found this article helpful.

  6. tuberrose
    tuberrose October 9, 2015 at 12:11 pm |

    My own trigger is drunk drivers. Several years ago, my brother was seriously and permanently injured by someone else’s drunk driving. I don’t hate anyone for his injury but I do speak against drunk driving. If I’m out with someone, I am always the designated driver because I will not drink alcohol when I go out. Not even one drink. Aside from hating everyone’s “fucking guts,” and writing angry blogs and Facebook posts, are you doing anything to promote more rigid gun laws? You’re a published writer. Are you writing articles or writing to your legislator? Do you speak about the topic when you talk in America?
    If you are not, if in fact all you do is rant, then you are doing nothing at all.
    You can hate my guts if it makes you feel better even though I have never owned a gun. Do that and nothing changes. I can hate you for drinking and my brother will still be in his bed. Nothing changes. So, do something about the gun problem. Do something to change what bothers you so much.
    Or shut up about it.

  7. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 9, 2015 at 4:47 pm |

    Hey, Brad, I’d like to say that I actually appreciated your style and your point. I enjoyed your post.

    “The merciful see that there is no Buddha way to attain; the sorrowful see that there are no beings to deliver”.

    A good time to see these things, I think, is when the barrel of the gun is pointed my way. The barrel of the gun has been pointed at each one of us since birth, and we’ve all been damaged in the womb by the things our mothers were exposed to; keeping a level head is all we’ve got.

    1. Fred
      Fred October 9, 2015 at 6:16 pm |

      ” In the early colonial days in America, the homicide rate was incredibly high”

      I think you can say that the United States of America was founded in killing by killers, and its one thing that America is known for.

      If a black man lips off to a white cop, there is a certain probability that he/she is going to be killed. The orderly function of American society is maintained by killing. The status and power of the U.S. in the world is maintained by killing.

      Killing is what Americans do.

      So, to see a new outburst of killing in the papers every week is not surprising. It’s to be expected. That’s what Americans do.

      1. constantine
        constantine October 9, 2015 at 8:44 pm |

        “Killing is what Americans do.”

        Awe man, that gets so old. There’s 320 million of us, killing is what less than 1% of us do. Way less than 1%, in fact. Do the research, it will take you 30 seconds.

        Dang media, you scary!

        1. Fred
          Fred October 10, 2015 at 5:27 am |

          You are all complicit in maintaining a system that is based on killing.

          The very way you live is based on killing.

          That you feel that it doesn’t involve you is another illusion, part of the deludedness.

          1. Fred
            Fred October 10, 2015 at 5:40 am |

            “But Buddhists really are supposed to understand that we are not different from anyone else in the world. We are all intimately connected. Even if you hold unreasonable and stupid views about guns, you are an expression of the universe just like me. In the deepest and truest sense I love you. Even as I hate your fucking guts.”

            You and I are expressions of the same universe, in a world where millions of people have been murdered.

            Your tax dollars that you give up go to murdering people in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

          2. constantine
            constantine October 10, 2015 at 10:47 am |

            I don’t even have to know what country you are from to know that I can find lots of examples of your country contributing and gaining from this same situation. Both in financial contributions, as well as in soldiers.

            Why is there such a superiority complex among Buddhists? I see it all the time.

          3. Cygni
            Cygni October 11, 2015 at 4:08 pm |
        2. mb
          mb October 10, 2015 at 11:05 am |

          Why is there such a superiority complex among Buddhists? I see it all the time.

          It’s not necessarily a superiority complex among Buddhists (though that exists too). It’s a superiority complex on behalf of our dear northern neighbors! I have an American friend who moved to Canada in 1985 (so has lived there for 30 years now) and even though he never became a Canadian citizen (while reaping the benefits of the much-more-humane Canadian health system), he now looks down his nose at Americans in general. I see it all the time.

          1. Cygni
            Cygni October 10, 2015 at 11:57 am |

            Canada may be a little more humane in some ways, but we still look up to the States in many other ways, although your crazy gun and racist drug laws make me hesitant to want to come for a visit. We have our own issues with right wing neo-conservative evangelicals in positions of power…


          2. mb
            mb October 10, 2015 at 12:16 pm |

            Canada may be a little more humane in some ways, but we still look up to the States in many other ways, although your crazy gun and racist drug laws make me hesitant to want to come for a visit. We have our own issues with right wing neo-conservative evangelicals in positions of power…

            Who dat? Harper’s not an evangelical, is he? Just a Canadian politician who espouses a Bush/Cheney type neocon political philosophy. Canada has bible-thumpers in positions of power also? I see that Rob Ford has moved from mayor to city council in Toronto, but he’s just a Trump-style clown-politician.

            I got a telemarketing phone call not too long ago from someone trying to raise money for the NRA and he was quoting Wayne LaPierre (president of the NRA) like he was some kind of god (of whom there is none, but he is always with you). I told the guy that people like Wayne LaPierre are an example of what’s wrong with this country and then hung up on him.

          3. Cygni
            Cygni October 10, 2015 at 2:50 pm |

            I’m not sure what religion Harper follows, I think it’s safe to presume he’s not Rastafarian or Gnostic Christian; Church of the Mandatory Sentence perhaps.

          4. Cygni
            Cygni October 10, 2015 at 3:26 pm |

            I’m not against Evangelism particularly, I come from a Pentecostal background, I just don’t want Evangelicals in charge of who can marry who or issues of abortion or what I can put in my body, and definitely not the best people to have in charge over the budget of NASA or the EPA. I guess when I run it through Canada is pretty mild on religion in government, its mostly a formality, its really money in which we trust.

  8. Jinzang
    Jinzang October 9, 2015 at 6:05 pm |

    Different people have different reactions because of their personal history. For you it’s gun violence, for me it’s medical error, having lost my sister to it. These feelings are relative to you and your situation. They need to be honored instead of just dismissed, but please show tolerance for those whose life history is different.

  9. Cygni
    Cygni October 9, 2015 at 10:18 pm |

    When I feel like the world is going to shit I light some candles, put on this album, and take a bubble bath.

  10. Dog Star
    Dog Star October 10, 2015 at 7:36 am |

    Brad, although you have at times expressed some discomfort about it–an act of honesty that I think resonates with more than a few people–you are a teacher of Buddhism. Additionally, you are a very public teacher of Buddhism, having written numerous wonderful books and established a durable presence on the internet. All of this has been very useful to me, and I thank you for it.

    With respect, you have a considerable amount of pop culture fame/celebrity status as such, but even as much of this is attributable to your iconoclastic and plain spoken approach to Buddhism, a subject frequently obscured by new agey, beatific mumbo-jumbo, it might behoove you to consider whether venturing into divisive politics–on this or any other hot button issue–and using the polarizing language of that arena is actually going to accomplish what you think it is.

    There are already plenty of shouting voices. Please don’t get lost in the din.

    1. constantine
      constantine October 10, 2015 at 10:49 am |


      Dog Star, that was an insightful post and very well said.

    2. Son of The Grand Canyon
      Son of The Grand Canyon October 12, 2015 at 3:55 pm |


  11. Used-rugs
    Used-rugs October 10, 2015 at 8:14 am |

    What about providing kevlar to every teacher and student in our public schools? Since the government is content with us being sitting ducks for psychopathic gun enthusiasts then why shouldn’t they pay for our protection against them? This is the only sane middle ground between being a sitting duck and buying a gun myself which I don’t want to do. Perhaps Ralph Lauren and Nike can produce designer kevlar so I don’t feel so awkward walking around at the mall with my vest on. And maybe GAP Kids could produce some kind of Dora the Explorer’s Urban Warfare Children’s line. It is war out here people. If some wack job can buy a rifle at Walmart with his bag of Doritoes then I should be able to buy a kevlar vest just as easily.

    For real, fuck this country. I’m never leaving the house.

  12. Khru 2.0
    Khru 2.0 October 10, 2015 at 9:09 am |

    The toothpaste is already out of the tube, as far as gun control and there’s no going back, unfortunately.

    I have mixed emotions about these things as I have several guns and sometimes enjoy going to the gun range and firing off a few rounds. It’s very relaxing and requires 100% total concentration and mindfulness. It also pains and angers me greatly when I hear about mass shootings. Beyond tragic.

    My family’s lives were saved by a handgun, many years ago when I was five years old. A career criminal (on parole with a history of violence and prison) broke down our back door in the middle of the night and forced his way into our house. The SOB then kicked my dog, who had been barking at him and broke several of his ribs. The noise woke up my parents and my Dad rushed into the kitchen with a handgun and fired two shots at the criminal, missing both times and he ran out of the house. The sound of the gunfire woke me up; I still remember how terrified I was and it affected my sleep for many years. It was extremely traumatic for my family.

    Anyhow, a swarm of police showed up and found him several blocks away. I don’t know what the answer is.

  13. woken
    woken October 10, 2015 at 10:06 am |

    The problem is in the USA, guns are so out of control that it’s virtually impossible to limit their use at this stage. I firmly believe that anyone that seriously attempts to, including the President, will be shot.

    What may help, is the cultural change, in which status, power and dominance, usually through the accumulation of money no matter what, are no longer valued, but Can USA culture really change from its founding myths?

  14. Cygni
    Cygni October 10, 2015 at 10:22 am |

    I potentially see video games as part of the solution. Instead of going out and buying an assault rifle and climbing the bell tower you could go buy a gaming computer and shoot up people in Arma III, much safer for everyone that way, no one ends up dead in real life.

  15. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 10, 2015 at 12:28 pm |

    I’m not opposed to people owning guns. I’m opposed to people owning military-grade equipment, and in that category I include automatic weapons.

    There’s some confusion about whether the right to own a gun is for protection from bad guys, or from the government. The same people who are the most outspoken in favor of no restrictions whatsoever on the right to own arms are the people who are most outspoken about their desire to have no government whatsoever, in my experience.

    It’s not really about defending home and family. Two shots that missed from a pistol are usually sufficient for that. It’s about trying to avoid paying taxes for grazing your cattle on public lands, because you’re special and your friends have enough guns to make things ugly when they come to impound your cattle. It’s about money.

    The thing about Ferguson: all those traffic stops, all that tension, was about the money.

    The thing about the school shootings: they appear to be about the perceived lack of success of the individuals involved, the lack of money and the lack of a mate (which perhaps is partly due to the lack of money).

    The 1% doesn’t need their own guns.

  16. woken
    woken October 10, 2015 at 12:47 pm |

    BTW, I’m amazed that anyone condemning the American obsession with bearing arms is accused as being “divisive”. Seriously, if you really believe in your personal right to bear arms, you’re a nut. End of story. Virtually every other civilised country on the planet controls guns for obviously good reasons. One of many reasons I am so happy not to have to live in the US of A.

  17. Mumbles
    Mumbles October 10, 2015 at 2:52 pm |

    “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” -Matthew 24:6

    Arjuna is killed by his son Babhnu Vahana, Cain kills Abel, etc., on and on…

    I just murdered lettuce, carrot, tomato, broccoli, avocado for lunch.

    This world is murder. It’s always been eat or be eaten. Everything is connected.

    “If something can be remedied
    Why be unhappy about it?
    And if there is no remedy for it,
    There is still no point in being unhappy.” -Shantideva (Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life)

  18. Cygni
    Cygni October 10, 2015 at 3:43 pm |

    Loving it Mumbles,

    Trying to imagine having dinner with Jesus, Krishna, and God of Peace Shantideva.

    I’m over at my family’s for dinner, Mom is cooking ginger beef and curry vegetables, it smells fantastic.

    Time to set the table

  19. Jiulong88
    Jiulong88 October 10, 2015 at 3:49 pm |

    Brad, you are honest and without pretense. There’s no woo-woo broth in the soup you brew. Feelings and our reactions are what they are. These are the energies that we have to fuel the work that we must do. Waste not,want not.

  20. Harlan
    Harlan October 10, 2015 at 5:27 pm |

    ” I want it to be the kind of place where born-again Christian Republicans can hang out with gay atheist cross-dressers and have a good time together.”

    You might have to forget about this idea.. Maybe a little too idealistic.

  21. Rose Moon
    Rose Moon October 10, 2015 at 7:42 pm |

    If we can stop people from endangering our lives by smoking in public places we can stop gun violence. Be angry, if that is what it takes! I have 12 incidents of gun violence in my life and have lost some family members and good friends. I get angry when someone speaks to be about their right to buy and own guns without background checks, etc. I’m appalled at their stupidity.

  22. constantine
    constantine October 11, 2015 at 7:08 am |

    In response to The Grand Canyon’s Sam Harris post, I googled the article.

    This is a much more balanced and wise article on the subject that Brad is SJWing about.

    1. Fred
      Fred October 11, 2015 at 11:04 am |

      Sam Harris is neither wise nor enlightened. Neither is he a Buddhist, nor have anything to say that would pertain to this blog.

      1. constantine
        constantine October 11, 2015 at 7:01 pm |

        “Neither is he a Buddhist, nor have anything to say that would pertain to this blog.”

        Interesting take. I didn’t realize that would have mattered here.

        “Sam Harris is neither wise nor enlightened. ”

        As far as not being enlightened, again I didn’t realize that would have mattered. Ok. . .

    2. minkfoot
      minkfoot October 11, 2015 at 11:07 am |

      Your use of “Social Justice Warrior,” a term Men’s Rights Advocates (MRAs — essentially anti-feminists) have tried to turn into a pejorative, to describe Brad promoting his views confuses me. Do you disapprove of social justice?

      1. constantine
        constantine October 11, 2015 at 7:11 pm |

        Well don’t you make me sound just terrible! You might be reading into that term in a different way than I would have. Social justice is good.

        Here is the modern internetish use of the phrase I was going for:

        “the stereotype of a social justice warrior is distinguished by the use of overzealous and self-righteous rhetorics, as well as appealing to emotions over logic and reason.”

        Harris’ article was balanced and looked honestly at the numbers involved with the debate, and the possible realities and consequences of what various levels of gun control could be like. He allowed various viewpoints to be followed on both sides of the argument, and gave weight to both sides of the debate. It wasn’t a bad read.

        Brad’s rant was basically an example of “the stereotype of a social justice warrior” as “distinguished by the use of overzealous and self-righteous rhetorics, as well as appealing to emotions over logic and reason”

        1. Used-rugs
          Used-rugs October 11, 2015 at 7:22 pm |

          That Sam Harris article is 90 percent turd like the man himself. This wasn’t a bad read either:

          1. constantine
            constantine October 11, 2015 at 7:54 pm |

            Ugh. . .you lost me at Salon. . .

          2. Used-rugs
            Used-rugs October 11, 2015 at 8:11 pm |

            You were lost anyway.

          3. constantine
            constantine October 11, 2015 at 8:17 pm |

            “You were lost anyway.”


            Because I consider both sides of the issue as having some validity, as opposed to Brad’s “I’m right and I hate those who disagree” silliness?

            Tough crowd around here. . . Ok. . .

          4. Used-rugs
            Used-rugs October 11, 2015 at 8:40 pm |

            Have you considered both sides of the issue of Sam Harris in regards to guns?

          5. constantine
            constantine October 11, 2015 at 8:58 pm |


            But I agree that both sides of the debate have some validity and that taking the hardest one way stance you can on the issue is rather blindfolding.

            I’m not really a Sam Harris fan, to be honest. I did buy his book Waking Up, but to be real I must admit I never finished it. Just sort of an airport read.

  23. Used-rugs
    Used-rugs October 11, 2015 at 11:43 am |

    As a man of science Sam Harris’s arguments can be oddly ridiculous like when he says that mass murder does not depend on guns by referencing a knife attack at an elementary school in China and by claiming that the only reliable way to stop a knife attack is with a gun. Give me a break. No one is scared of knives in this country.

    This was a good paragraph though:
    “One of the greatest impediments to actually solving the riddle of guns in our society is the pious concern that many people have about the intent of the Second Amendment. It should hardly need to be said that despite its brilliance and utility, the Constitution of the United States was written by men who could not possibly have foreseen every change that would occur in American society in the ensuing centuries. Even if the Second Amendment guaranteed everyone the right to possess whatever weapon he or she desired (it doesn’t), we have since invented weapons that no civilian should be allowed to own. In fact, it can be easily argued that original intent of the Second Amendment had nothing to do with the right of self-defense—which remains the ethical case to be made for owning a firearm. The amendment seems to have been written to allow the states to check the power of the federal government by maintaining their militias. Given the changes that have occurred in our military, and even in our politics, the idea that a few pistols and an AR 15 in every home constitutes a necessary bulwark against totalitarianism is fairly ridiculous. If you believe that the armed forces of the United States might one day come for you—and you think your cache of small arms will suffice to defend you if they do—I’ve got a black helicopter to sell you.

  24. JaboPrajna
    JaboPrajna October 11, 2015 at 1:48 pm |

    Coming from a family of gun nuts (I think I’m the only one without a concealed carry permit), I see it as people acting from “irrational paranoia,” as you put it. They live in fear. They’re constantly afraid that someone will try to harm them and they won’t be able to defend themselves.

    Seeing the fear my whack-job family members live in, I can open to compassion for them. I still think they’re wrong about gun control issues, but at least I don’t hate them for acting out of fear. Rather, I feel sorry for them.

    1. senorchupacabra
      senorchupacabra October 12, 2015 at 8:01 am |

      Coming from a family of gun nuts and living in a rural community full of them, I have to agree wholeheartedly.

      There’s also a significant amount of insecurity all the way around, particularly when it comes to one’s view of one’s own masculinity. One can sit around all day getting fat and slowly weakening/killing themselves with processed foodstuffs and alcohol, but as long as they own some guns and a big truck, they’re daddy-long-dick.

      It’s all so weird.

  25. Jules
    Jules October 12, 2015 at 8:06 am |

    Most Americans have no idea how much the statistics on violence in the US have improved since the ’70’s. Just wanted to point out that things have gotten a lot better around here, when you back up and look at the big picture.

  26. lauramadugan823
    lauramadugan823 October 12, 2015 at 9:29 am |

    Thanks for the post – much appreciated.

  27. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara October 12, 2015 at 11:25 am |

    A lot of men have been taught that fear is an unacceptable impulse – they become gun nuts to deny their fear.

    A lot of Christians have been taught that anger is an unacceptable impulse – they become Zen Buddhists to deny their anger.

    I found this essay – wonder what Nishijima would have said about it

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara October 12, 2015 at 11:28 am |

      I thought this one was interesting too …

      1. Fred
        Fred October 12, 2015 at 1:18 pm |

        “Your comment is approximately 100% turd.
        The irrational hatred that you and Fred (if you are, in fact, two different people) seem to have for Sam Harris (and Stephen Batchelor in Fred’s case, if I remember correctly) prevent you from benefiting from their substantial experience, scholarship, and wisdom. Harris and Batchelor are two REAL hardcore Buddhists.”

        Bhikku Punnadhammo : “Let’s be clear about this. Consciousness has not at all been explained ‘in terms of brain function’ by modern science or by anyone else. It is entirely a metaphysical assumption that it ever can be, an act of faith of the most credulous sort that Mr. Batchelor should be the first to denounce. There is not a shred of a proof of this claim anywhere, only a pious belief in some quarters that such a proof will shortly be forthcoming.”

        Both Harris and Batchelor are full of shit. They do not practice Buddhism; neither does Canyon.

        1. Shinchan Ohara
          Shinchan Ohara October 12, 2015 at 1:50 pm |

          “Let’s be clear about this. Consciousness has not at all been explained ‘in terms of brain function’ by modern science or by anyone else.”

          Not at all been explained? That’s overstating the case slightly. Any American child could refute the good Bhikkhu with a 12-gauge.

  28. Mumbles
    Mumbles October 12, 2015 at 1:30 pm |

    I was raised smack in the middle of heartland gun culture, was a crack shot w/a .22 and a card carrying, patch-wearing NRA member, then, when I was just 14, I mistakenly shot and killed a mother rabbit, who somewhere out in the wilds had babies waiting to be fed. A week later I sold my rifle and never looked back.

    My roommate in college had a bunch of guns, we used to drop acid and go out and randomly shoot his 9 millimeter pistol into sandbanks and whatever inanimate objects we could find. I remember the extended rush of the kick of that gun reverberating through my altered state. That was 30 some years ago; I’ve never touched a gun since.

    Two of the guys in my present band always use earplugs when we practice or play a gig. I give them shit for being rock and roll wusses, (Keith would never wear ’em!) but both are adamant about protecting their hearing from the wicked rhythm they produce on bass/drums (and my bad ass guitar run through an amp bigger than I need & pedals galore, plus the keyboardist’s array, the PA, etc.). Just last night I found out they are both gun nuts and the reason their hearing is poor is from shooting guns all the time. I thought they were kidding, we’ve all known each other for years; one of them is a psychiatrist, the other teaches college English and is a published poet. But both were serious and went on at length about their love of hunting…

    Gun culture in America. It will surprise you.

    1. Used-rugs
      Used-rugs October 12, 2015 at 6:20 pm |

      People on acid shooting guns, there’s a new one. Everyone thinks they are so mentally clear and responsible. “I’ve taken all the classes on gun safety, I lock up my firearms” yada yada, but really you’re only sane until you aren’t. That’s the reason I will never own a gun. I don’t trust my own mind and neither should you. Who knows, while in a fit of intoxicated despair you might find it perfectly reasonable to put the gun to your head and blow your brains out, which is how the vast majority of suicides occur in this country.

      1. Mumbles
        Mumbles October 13, 2015 at 4:45 am |

        Don’t know if that’s statistically true?…in my case anyway the intensified clarity of the situation didn’t go in any kind of suicidal direction, we were having fun. This was in the early 1970’s. Maybe now people regularly drop acid and blow their brains out, but I doubt it.

        One time on a sunny Sunday morning -same time period & with the same friend- we were walking along a sidewalk in an upper class suburban outskirt of the city coming on hard to some windowpane just as a family, all dressed up going to church stepped out of their house to get into the car. The man of the house took one look at us long-haired scruffily attired degenerates and said, in a disgusted tone of voice, “Hippies!” My friend retorted, “Charlie Manson was the best thing that ever happened to the hippies!” We were unarmed, and went on to have a wonderful time that day grokking the fullness of it all. I mean, ALL.

        1. Used-rugs
          Used-rugs October 13, 2015 at 7:46 am |

          Sorry, my meaning was that most suicides occur with a gun and approximately one third of those people are intoxicated at the time of death.

  29. Fred
    Fred October 12, 2015 at 2:13 pm |

    Why don’t you print what you learned from sitting Canyon.

    Other than trolling a zen board with other authors, why don’t you share some of your insights gained while just sitting.

    1. constantine
      constantine October 12, 2015 at 2:51 pm |

      Wow, so this is Brad’s Buddhism? LOL

      1. mtto
        mtto October 12, 2015 at 3:01 pm |

        The comments on this blog represent the views of the commenters themselves, and are not necessarily representative of the blogger.

        1. Shinchan Ohara
          Shinchan Ohara October 12, 2015 at 4:57 pm |


    2. Son of The Grand Canyon
      Son of The Grand Canyon October 12, 2015 at 3:52 pm |

      Fathers has many insights. They are IN-sights though, not OUT-sights. Insights can only be seen inside. Outsights can be shared with others.

    3. Fred Jr.
      Fred Jr. October 12, 2015 at 6:26 pm |

      That’s kind of cool in a McQueen way, how you refer to GC as “Canyon”.

  30. Son of The Grand Canyon
    Son of The Grand Canyon October 12, 2015 at 3:13 pm |

    Fathers, how come there were no animals with Noah?

  31. Used-rugs
    Used-rugs October 13, 2015 at 9:31 am |

    There’s something about a gun, the cold, dead-weight of it in your hands, you know that heavy end-of-the-world dead baby washing up on the beach type weight. How can you enjoy that feeling? If you lift weights long enough your muscles change and your mind changes. Don’t think that carrying and shooting a gun, even if only for sport, is any different. I’m not going to live my life walking around with dead babies on my hands.

    Sam Harris made nearly the same argument as the person below, but Sam Harris said it seriously. What a world.–51477

    1. constantine
      constantine October 13, 2015 at 10:56 am |

      “I’m not going to live my life walking around with dead babies on my hands.”

      Hahahahahaha that’s hilarious. Oh shit that’s hilarious. Seriously. . . WTF?

      LOL oh man, Brad, you are a magnet for morons. I’d be afraid to step foot in your future LA center. If this is an example of your following, LOL awe hell no!

      1. Used-rugs
        Used-rugs October 13, 2015 at 11:12 am |

        What makes you think Brad’s center would want you there anyway, baby killer?

        1. Son of The Grand Canyon
          Son of The Grand Canyon October 13, 2015 at 2:47 pm |

          Fathers says that beggars can’t be choosers. As long as you can kick down, you won’t be kicked out. You can do whatever you want in your spare time, it don’t matter.

      2. senorchupacabra
        senorchupacabra October 13, 2015 at 7:35 pm |

        And, yet, here you are. On the same website, on the same message board, having read the same post and calling people names. You’re so much more enlightened. Obviously.

        1. constantine
          constantine October 14, 2015 at 9:00 am |

          Yeah, but I am not a Hardcore Zenist, I was just checking it out via the blog. If any of these “prove your attainment to me” or “guns are for baby killers” people actually hang out at Brad’s center, it’s enough for me to know to move along. . .

          I miss Zafu’s posts. He was the only one here that seemed to know what he was talking about. . .

          Zafu, start a blog. I will follow it and troll you from time to time.

          1. mtto
            mtto October 14, 2015 at 4:34 pm |

            Don’t worry. He’s just posting under different names.

  32. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 13, 2015 at 9:45 am |

    The link from Jules at 8:06 on the 12th, from the Pew people, interesting. Sounds like the most salient fact is the increase or reduction of the population in the 20-30’s range, as far as gun violence, in the U.S.A. and internationally.

    Mumbles, you might want to consider earplugs if you ever ramp it up. The Contractions, a local S.F. band, opened for Duran Duran at the Coliseum back in the 80’s, and the bass player lost half her hearing in one night. She’s been campaigning for rock musicians to protect their hearing ever since.

    Great tales. I’m enjoying this thread, in spite of what I’m sure Khru will say.

  33. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 13, 2015 at 10:06 am |

    For parlor guitar affecionados everywhere:

  34. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 13, 2015 at 10:27 am |

    Hey GC, is this a parlor f-hole, in Rawling’s hands?

    1. Mark Foote
      Mark Foote October 14, 2015 at 10:06 am |

      Very cool, thank you.

  35. Mumbles
    Mumbles October 13, 2015 at 4:37 pm |

    Ah! Stephen Batchelor’s “after buddhism” arrived today in a package including the new Penguin edition of Thomas Ligotti’s “Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe.” I’m halfway through Patti Smith’s excellent “M Train,” the follow up to her “Just Kids,” about her life with the MC5’s genius guitar player Fred “Sonic” Smith. I wanted to read Alberto Manguel’s new one “Curiosity” next, but it might get bumped for the Batchelor…

    1. Used-rugs
      Used-rugs October 15, 2015 at 7:59 pm |

      Oh yes, Stephen Batchelor, what can one say? Notice within the first chapter of his new book he redefines the term “emptiness” as basic human “dignity” whatever the fuck that means. If this is the future of secular Buddhist thinking, then I’d think we’d all be better off cutting off rooster heads and drinking their blood.

  36. Duke_PA
    Duke_PA October 16, 2015 at 10:15 pm |

    1. I enjoyed Brads perturbed angryhaterman style on this one.
    2. If the US doesn’t do something sane about sensible firearms regulation then we deserve every crack made about our paranoid maniacal obsessions with violence that the Tim Hortons addicts to the north like to make.
    3. I’m a strong supporter of gun control legislation and have close friends who worked on a successful ballot initiative closing gun loopholes recently in my state.
    4. I’m a gun owner. I like to shoot. I shot competatively in high school. I’ve never hunted. I’ve never fired a weapon outside of a firing range. I’m pretty sure I’m not a maniac.
    5. I’m going to the range on Thursday.

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