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We’re #1! Alaskans, Violence, and Firearms

By Wickersham’s Conscience

This post started out as a semi-serious recounting of one of the two documented instances of a cougar – a mountain lion – in Alaska. It seems that back in 1989, an off-grid homesteader outside of Wrangell named Paul Matteoni claimed to have opened his door and have seen two green eyes. He didn’t know what it was, so he shot it. A quintessential Alaskan reaction.

What “it” was turned out to be a cougar. Probably the big cat had wandered down the Stikine River Valley from British Columbia, where there is a small but stable population. Mr. Matteoni was charged with the unauthorized taking of an animal. He plead self-defense. The on-line records are a bit inconsistent as to the outcome: either he was acquitted or charges were later dropped.

As the Anchorage Daily News editorialized at the time, moose sometimes migrate from their normal range in Minnesota to Iowa, where they are invariably shot by folks claiming self-defense. It’s amazing, isn’t it, that the moose never attack any Iowans who aren’t armed?

Then on October 27, KUAC-FM broadcast the news that Alaska enjoyed the highest per capita firearm death rate in the nation. The Violence Policy Center, analyzing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, determined that Alaska could boast 20.64 firearm deaths – homicides, suicides and accidental shootings – per 100,000 residents. That’s almost twice the national average, which is 10.38. The Violence Policy Center notes that Alaska has the highest number of firearms in the home of any state, with 60.6% of homes having at least one firearm, and one of the nation’s laxest firearm regulation policies; i.e., we don’t have any.

Opportunity, plainly, equals mortality. And somehow heavily armed, trigger-happy Alaskans weren’t quite so amusing any more.

Props to KUAC for covering the story; most Alaska media have been oddly silent (the Alaska Dispatch being a notable exception).

Yes, the NRA has told us a thousand times that “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” But the hackneyed slogan begs the question of how people kill people. Here’s a thought experiment: Take two crazed killers. Arm one with a club. Arm the other with an automatic rifle, two pistols and a shotgun. Turn them lose. Which one will create the most corpses?

Advertising agencies’ slogans like the NRA’s little masterpiece don’t have to turn off our brains. We can still think. And WC thinks Alaska needs to do something about its dirty little firearms problem. It’s going to be very difficult, the politics are going to be very ugly and it’s going to take a very long time, but it needs to be done.

 

Comments

comments

Comments
15 Responses to “We’re #1! Alaskans, Violence, and Firearms”
  1. coolhand says:

    the big thing is people are so violent and having a loaded gun when people go off is real a bad thing.
    I keep all of my gun’s unloaded and my ammo some place away from my gun’s. got to teach kid’s when there young that the use of a firearms can get you in real trouble if you misuse it. you watch TV what you see all the time is go and use a gun ..

  2. Anonymous Viewer says:

    The picture is named 3006.jpg, but the rifle looks like a .458 Winchester, not a .30-06.

  3. guessed says:

    The problem is that it is those pesky little people behind the gun that do the killing. Now you could argue taking away the guns would stop the killing. I agree there would be less killing. But humans being ingenious creature with opposing digits would come up with another way of exerting their influence on their fellow humans… it is this area that I have a problem with…. usually non firearm related control of our fellow humans relies on physical force. Fighting… torture… ‘Bush Free Speech’ [waterboarding]… sex pyramids etc. That is my problem… I would rather kill you than be part of sex pyramid with that priestcrafter Jerry Prevo

  4. benlomond2 says:

    We’ve had mountain lions snatch small dogs off of back porches here in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and coyotes snack regularly on cats. I own a shotgun and am glad that I do- living in a rural ( ok, SEMI-rural) area, we have to depend on county mounties for police protection. There simply are situations where owning a weapon is prudent … of course one hopes to not to have to ever use it, .. but I sleep better at nite knowing the right too for the job is available… My smoke detector is in the same category.. I hope it never goes off, but I’m glad it’s there. …and to be honest, I worry more about a rabid critter than a mountain lion visiting my backyard.
    There’s nothing wrong with owning the right weapon for your situation… Gun safety classes should be automatic. and I don’t see a reason for Joe Average to own an AK-47; gun collectors, sure.. with a permit to do so, and a really good security system in case of break-in/theft.
    .
    .
    .
    . although after seeing an RPG on Mythbusters earlier this month,,having one of THOSE might be just the thing for those pesky racoons that keep raiding my garage !! 🙂

    • benlomond2 says:

      “right tool”….. dang ! and I corrected 3 other words before submitting. !

  5. Lots of Alaskans commit crimes that are made easier because of guns. Not many Alaskans are preventing crime with the guns they’ve got. My blog has quite a rundown, and I’m always thrilled to include those instances where guns were used to stop crime. But sadly, that’s an extreme rarity.

  6. Elsie says:

    A friend of mine lives out in a vast and rural area of Alaska. Her family suffered the horrific loss of a pet that was attacked by a bear right in front of the family near their home last winter when bears are supposed to be hibernating. The husband ran for his big gun and rushed back to kill the bear before anyone or anything else in that family was attacked.

    “As to Alaskans and their guns? I don’t get it. It is most assuredly a love affair way beyond ‘just huntin’ rifles.’”

    I dunno….If you live in the distant parts of the state, at times, you need a weapon for protection. The rural people certainly did.

    Another friend is a long-time Juneau resident, living on the edge of town near the mountains, who has had any number of bears run through her backyard over the years and wander up and down her street. She’s definitely inside the city limits, but not safe from bears there. She pays close attention to things when she steps outside and, thus far, continues to be safe.

    • leenie17 says:

      I think the difference is the perception of firearms either as
      1. tools used to protect and provide food
      or as
      2. items you collect just because you want to own a whole bunch of dangerous weapons.

      My sister lived for 12 years on 40 acres in sparsely populated area of southeastern CO, near the foothills of the Rockies. She regularly had coyotes and snakes in her yard and the occasional cougar would leave paw prints on her front walkway. She and my BIL are rather uncomfortable around guns, but realized they needed to have protection from potentially dangerous animals as well as the stranger with antisocial motives who may show up on their doorstep, especially when my BIL worked the night shift. They purchased a handgun and a rifle. My niece’s husband is an avid hunter and owns several rifles and shotguns. All of the members of my family who have weapons have them for very practical purposes…to provide protection or to use for hunting. I also know several people who do sport shooting, which I find perfectly acceptable.

      What frightens me about many of the guns owners in our country is that they seem to feel a certain power by having an ever-greater number of weapons as well as having the biggest and baddest guns they can purchase. I apologize to any avid gun collectors who may read this, but I just don’t understand why it has to be legal to own guns (or high-capacity magazines) whose sole purpose is to kill large numbers of people in a few seconds. I have no problem with allowing people to purchase and use guns for protection, hunting and sport shooting, but I simply don’t understand why we should allow a person to buy an assault weapon.

      There are limits placed on other types of weapons which are deemed to be too dangerous for the general public to own, and I don’t understand why it’s so hard for people to accept some reasonable limits on guns and ammunition clips.

  7. Adam says:

    Wow…blame the tool, not the person. The simple fact is that a murderer is a murderer, regardless the means. Your analogy of arming one while leaving the other with a rudimentary tool is meaningless, unless one of them has the will to kill another. If the person with firearms does not have that desire but the club-wielder does, at least the armed person stands a chance of self-defense.

    Let us also not forget the CDC report includes suicide by gun as a victim of firearm violence, despite the fact they could have just as easily swallowed pills or drove their ATV through the river ice. With Alaska suicides at or near the top of statistics for the past several years, it is this inclusion which causes Alaska’s numbers to be so high. A good thing for drawing attention to a report and making big headlines, but not a good basis for factual analysis. If a person is so desperate as to kill themselves, they’ll find a way to do it with or without a gun. If you want to take an honest look at firearm misuse, you’ll look at the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/). A bit of math shows Alaska is in the bottom third by population for firearm murder and attempted murder, while states with significant restrictions on firearm ownership such as California, New York and the District of Columbia are at or near the top.

    Guns aren’t a problem in Alaska, anymore than they are a problem anywhere else. People who are not held accountable for their actions, or are not afraid of the consequence of that action are at fault. Murderers are murderers, and the implement to do so is nothing more than a tool misused by a criminal.

    If you want to find a problem worth solving, check out the incidents of forcible rape and sexual assault, led by Alaska for much of the past decade.

    Or would your “solution” be the castration of all male babies upon birth?

    • Really? says:

      “If you want to find a problem worth solving, check out the incidents of forcible rape and sexual assault, led by Alaska for much of the past decade”.. I agree with you Adam.

  8. lisa says:

    So true about the NRA! I also notice when they call for money they want to speak to the “man of the house.” How retrograde is that? Admittedly, I do make snide remarks. Curiously they always call back. Demented idiots comprise a lot of the organization …

    As to Alaskans and their guns? I don’t get it. It is most assuredly a love affair way beyond “just huntin’ rifles.” I am surrounded by a lot of people with guns in my neighborhood, some who would not pass a psychological evaluation for paranoid behavior. And, most also would be not be able to pass an exam on the US Constitution (or even understand the Second Amendment).

  9. Sally says:

    Another reason never to elect an Alaskan President of the US…they are already under the thumb of the NRA before they even run.

  10. Those pesky human attacking mooses in Iowa attack sideways because they get shot in the side and even Iowans know that moose don’t lead with their delicate little noggins. Iowa has problems with domestic violence and firearms-not anywhere near as bad as Alaska,but it does happen.

  11. UgaVic says:

    I wish I could say this was a ‘discussion’ that could happen here but from what I know about discussions you have to have at least a somewhat open mind. When it comes to guns and any laws here in Alaska, at least in our part of the state, that open mindedness is shut pretty tightly.