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10 Responses to “Two Americas”

  1. Kent Dahlberg says:

    Mike, by your own account, “Second America” has existed for at least 150 years. Mass shootings are a comparatively recent development. Ergo, if a “culturally violent Second America” was the cause or even a major contributing factor to this phenomenon of mass shootings, it would have emerged much earlier and recurred throughout “Second America’s” existence. But it did not. The answer must lay elsewhere.

    With all due respect, you might want to rethink your post’s simple, binary analysis. For example, the prevalence and strictness of gun laws tend to coincide with high levels of gun-related crime. Urban areas like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles have some of the most restrictive gun laws, yet they lead the nation in crimes involving guns. As a group, criminals do not seem to be impressed with (let alone deterred by) laws against illicitly acquiring and using firearms.

    Regarding America’s westward expansion in the latter half of the 1800s and “taking the law into one’s own hands” — That form of justice is often a fact of life in minimally developed, unsettled regions. There is no ready access to law enforcement or systems of courts. Sometimes there is not even much in the way of laws at all — it is a Darwinian environment where the “law of the jungle” rules. Evil people will sometimes seek to prey on others, often in “culturally violent” ways. So, to ensure a modicum of civilizational structure and to protect basic human and property rights, well-intended people band together to defend themselves against chaos. That life-affirming response to injustice and evil was hardly unique to “Second America” as it expanded west across a wild continent. On the contrary, that response is nearly universal throughout human history. It enables rudimentary civilizations to survive against the Barbarians.

    I often enjoy your posts, but occasionally your assessments miss the target. This week’s musings will benefit from further reflection.

  2. Mike Metzger says:


    Without a doubt, every column I wrote would benefit from further reflection. Thank you for your comments.

    As for mass shootings being a recent development, I add one note. The first mass shooting took place in 1790. Mass shootings are not a recent development. There was an uptick in the rate as Second American developed. It has remained about the same over the last 150 years.

    As for your comments regarding well-intended people coming together in minimally developed, unsettled regions, I agree. It is a universal response–which raises a question. How do you explain the preponderance of these shootings occurring in the US? Wouldn’t a universal response be spread more evenly across the globe?

  3. Hank says:


    Cudos for taking this on but I also believe it merits further reflection.

    One of the immense complexities of this issue is that many people gravitate toward ready symbols that can unify sentiments desperate for an outlet.

    The commonly touted statistic that Americans have more guns than anyone else ergo America has more more violence is maligned. America is the richest country in the world – we have more of almost everything material than everyone else in the world – TVs and violent video games and personal devices that isolate users from humanity being among those items, but for some reason they are not as gravitational as the menacing gun. Additionally, a gun is not a toothbrush, it is a tool of which there are many variants with many differing uses – the guns I own are like my toolbox – thoughtfully purchased for specified uses. For one to say having more than one gun is excessive is akin to saying having more than one tool in your toolbox is excessive.

    If a gun were not available, mass killers who share a lot of traits would seek another method to express their anger – one of the first school massacres in our country was done with a bomb – the Colombine killers had bombs as well – guns were their horrendous backup plan in the atrocity – but the press focused on the gun. We are not going to ban propane, gasoline, cars, knives, etc – we must collectively look deeper.

    Regarding the need for citizenry to have guns for potential use against other people, the statistics bear out that the more gun ownership within a local population, the less crime, but the more likely for suicidal activities and the infrequent but horrendous public shooting/ suicide. In less policed area of our country the citizenry relies on other citizens for mutual protection and it works – statistically better than it works in highly policed urban areas – again, the causes/ outcomes are likely deeper than guns.

    For our country to unify around mitigating the potential for these atrocities, we need to focus our resources on causes rather than enablers – a close friend doing research on the surge in suicide in our country believes that the increasing trend comes from isolation associated with spending too much time on the internet and the content thereof. People who commit suicide and commit mass killings in our country share a lot of common traits.

    With that said, I’m logging off and going outside. A venomous snake killed one of my dogs last week – I’ll have my snake gun with me.

  4. Mike Metzger says:


    I was hoping you’d chime in. Thank you for your comments (you too, Kent). This is a complex subject. I admit it. Have much to learn.

  5. Mike Metzger says:

    btw, kill that snake, Hank.

  6. Dave T says:

    You guys get up early. Mike, it’s a rare art that you are very good at, offering analysis over centuries and not just years or a few decades. You find commonalities “of the heart” – when it is soft in the right ways and hard in the wrong ways – that are compelling. Kent and you have a “fact” to settle: mass shootings are a recent development or they go back to 1790 and a “rate” has remained steady for 150 years. It may be important to settle that fact because it might be a piece of the puzzle for better analysis. Between us readers your analysis is a great start for asking more questions. Purely speculative: anyone asked about the parenting received by the youth who are shooters? Anyone examine the relationship choices of the adult shooters? If we found these broad poverties in the shooters we could make politically-charged but accurate assessments that THESE people are likely shooters. And then what do you do when that might be 50% of our population? Grass-roots solutions aim at getting the gospel right, marriage right, and parenting right are a long road. Until then I think, Mike, that the two Americas describe responses to gun law changes, but I find it difficult to agree that second America is aggrieved with first America in these shootings.

  7. Tom Nesler says:

    I for one, would be interested in the 1790 shooting incident, considering that the weapon was a single shot rifle? Care to give the reference for that?

  8. Brian Clark says:

    Hi Mike,

    Are you referring to the 1790 murder of a family by Barnett Davenport in Connecticut? If so, I would not consider beating someone with a gun equivalent to a mass shooting. Yet I would be interested in further historical analysis. This is thought provoking. -Brian

  9. Andrew Chapin says:

    For the sake of intellectual honesty, I would question the intitial statistic that is used frequently to set up this issue. Not every school shooting is a student bringing a gun to take matters into his own hands. This article is a couple months behind, but addresses the first 18 ‘school shootings’.

    I don’t think a 31 year could knitting suicide in a school parking lot is a good example of a school shooting. According to the article, only 4 of the 18 shootings were kids bringing guns to school with the intent of shooting others.

  10. Mike Metzger says:

    Stay tuned, everyone. The next weeks will we hear from two others who offer a different take on this issue. They are voices I respect.

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