Category Archives: guns

The Historical picture of Domestic Terrorism in the United States


Hoffman and Ware argue in their book, Gods, Guns, and about how  and spoke to us at ASU about how violent extremism in the United States has been a story of a historical trajectory that they believe is well described by the title of the book. According to the two of them this variant of extremism which has existed in the US since at least the period of reconstruction by groups like the Ku Klux Klan, was suppressed in part by the creation of the Department of Justice at another time of insecurity in the country for the purpose of suppressing that violent extremism. The Klan was revived again in the 19 teens as well as 1920s and one more time in the 1960s.

The 1970s violence was mimicked in the current era. Particularly xenophobia, and  distrust and dislike of immigrants, the gradual unsuccessful ending of a quarter of a century war in South East Asia contributed to a malaise that upset many Americans, especially those who felt America was losing its greatness. At the same time in the 1980s members of various religious groups helped give some justification for the white sheet part of the Klan and the Brownshirts of the neo-Nazis from Biblical scripture. The religious right became an enthusiastic supporter of the political right. This mixture of right-wing politics and conservative religion became acutely toxic.

White Supremacist churches became active in support of the American right, particularly the church of Jesus Christ Christian attempted to unite a group that was actually very diverse. It included anti-government extremists, tax resisters, gun advocates, racists, anti-Semites, xenophobes, and militant anti-abortionists needed uniting, they thought. Many of the leaders of the political movement were also Pastors or Reverends who also led churches or organizations of churches.

The guns part of the movement became prominent in the 1990s. Terrorist groups according to Hoffman, always are looking for ways to broaden their appeal. They started to advance the cause for gun rights coupled with salient religious rights as well. During the Clinton administration gun enthusiasts became convinced that the federal government would try to expropriate their guns while the religious right accepted that, but was also deeply concerned about the perceived immorality on the left. This was exemplified by the what they thought was the absolute corruption and immorality of the Clintons.

It was this fear of losing guns and freedoms to an aggrieved federal government that inspired Timothy McVeigh to launch an attack on the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. 169 persons, many of them children, died in that attack and it is still the most lethal internal terrorist attack in the history United States. I remember when that attack occurred and how most people, including at first me,  assumed it had been caused by Jihadist terrorists.  That was where the fear of terror was born. No one thought at the time that home grown terrorists were a serious problem. That bombing changed that point of view.

Hoffman said when he first started his career as an analyst of terrorism 43 year ago, he was concerned about right-wing terror but that dissipated after 9/11 when American learned to fear Islamic extremism first with Al Qaeda and later ISIS.

Timothy McVeigh: Disciple of William Cooper


Timothy McVeigh, it turns out, was listening to William Cooper on his radio talk show  talking about Waco Texas and was struck by what he heard. He caught the sickness. He was inflamed like so many in the right-wing movement. He was lapped by the flames. He believed what he heard. It radicalized him.

Like to many other conservative Americans, Timothy McVeigh  always loved guns,. After High School though he became obsessed with guns. He read Soldier of Fortune magazine as if it was holy writ. He became a vocal proponent of gun rights. McVeigh was no dummy. He joined the army and graduated at the top of his class.


He was disciplined for buying a White Power shirt at a KKK rally. He was bathed in White Supremacist ideology. McVeigh was transformed by his role in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq. Even though he won medals for his job as sniper, he was traumatized by the war.  His attitude underwent a sea change while he was there. He began to wonder what right he had to go to Iraq and tell Iraqis what to do in their own country but he was actually told to hurt them for not doing it his way!


He was considered for Special Forces work but failed because of his physical condition.  This humiliated McVeigh. He began to blame the US military rather than the people of Iraq. He saw the army as part of the socialist takeover of America. And in 1993 he was at the Waco siege hawking bumper stickers. He was the young man radically affected by what he saw at Waco. After that he roamed the country attending gun shows wherever he could. He was also awash with theories by William Cooper. He bought a video on Waco made by Cooper.  As Justin Ling said on his CBC podcast series, “Flamethrowers”, he was listening to “the Big Lie.” That is an interesting expression in the history of extremism. It became even more interesting years later.

 Cooper in his tapes asked his listeners if they would stand up like a real man and a real woman? McVeigh heard Cooper say the time was near when everyone, including himself was going to have to make a decision. It was time to be counted and McVeigh was ready. Cooper asked, on the tape, “how  many more people are you going to allow to be jailed, persecuted, burned to death, murdered, because you are a coward.

Later evidence  makes it clear that McVeigh took this message to heart. He was brave enough for the task at hand that brought him to Oklahoma City.

Wacky Waco


One of the most important incidents in the history of the whacky right-wing movement in the US, occurred, appropriately near a city called Waco Texas. That incident ignited the right-wing  talk-radio hosts around the country.

On April 19, 1993 there was a tense standoff near the Mount Carmel in Waco Texas between a small Christian sect known as the Branch Davidians and nearly 900 federal agents including the FBI, Customs, the National Guard and the Texas Rangers. To many it appeared like an epic struggle between Christians and government. Of course, the   government agents brought massive amounts of fire power with them.  Nothing but overwhelming force would do against this small Christian sect. This included a dozen tanks. Inside the fortified building there are about 100 Branch Davidians that included 20 children. About half the adults were women. It didn’t look like a fair fight. But should it be a fair fight? If Antifa is rioting in the streets of Seattle or Portland should they be met with equal force?  What if the rioters are a motor cycle gang. Do the authorities have to fight them fairly? Or should we allow them to bring overwhelming force?

The Christian sect had a leader David Koresh, after whom the group was named. They were not lambs led to the slaughter.  As Justin Ling explained on his CBC podcast, “They’ve got a 50-caliber cannon, machine guns, and more than a million rounds of ammunition. They are prepared for a holy war.”        This was a very well-armed sect of Christians.

Modern Christians like to be well-armed. No lily-livered pacifism for them. They don’t turn the other cheek; they turn the other AR-15.

 One of the officers on the site said the agents had walked into “a hail-storm in reverse.” I don’t know what that means but it doesn’t sound good to me.

The initial fire fight led to the deaths of 4 officers and 5 Branch Davidians. Since then, there was a very tense stand-off. The line from the Clinton administration was about saving the children inside the compound.  But why did they need saving? There was a very different version of the events on short-wave radio.

One broadcaster from Arizona said “this was the beginning of the end for Christian America.”  The Christians believed that no one in the church was compelled to go there. Everyone was there as a result of exercising their own free will or their parents exercising their own free will. As a result, according to this view, the attack on the site was an extreme example of government over reach and tyranny—i.e. government interfering with the freedom of the people. One of those people upset with the government and who espoused this view was radio talk-show host William Cooper. Cooper said,

“The U.S government is training this massive military force on Americans who are just exercising their religious freedom. For Cooper this siege vindicated the dire predictions he had been making for years—that the socialist, liberal government is about to take away your freedom. And you might be next!”

The fears were being stoked. And once again, paranoia was bringing bad decision making in its wake.

As one right-wing pundit said,

“The siege continues in Waco Texas. A small group of men and women trapped under siege by government forces. They are fighting the second battle of the Second American Revolution. Make no mistake about it folks—we are at war.


Many Americans believed exactly that.  America was at war with its own government. As a result of Waco, the American survivalist and militia movement was born. This was the group that later included domestic terrorists such as Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and many others. The events of January 6th 2021 were a direct descendant of Waco.

 There was a young boy who came to see the action in Waco Texas. He was selling bumper sticker such as this: “Fear the government that fears your gun.” “Banning guns make the streets safe for a government takeover.” That young kid later made a lot of noise in the right-wing movement when he got a little older. His name was Timothy McVeigh.

School Shootings in the US are pretty Ho hum



Another school shooting was in the news in the US soon after we arrived in Arizona. Ho hum. I learned an interesting thing about the US when we arrived. According to the World Population review the total number of school shootings per country from 2009 to 2018 are telling. They tell us a lot about the United States.  The US leads globally in school shootings by a very wide margin.  It had 288 during that time. Its nearest competitor in this dubious category is Mexico at 8 per year. The US has 36 times as many as Mexico, commonly perceived as a very violent country.  South Africa comes in third at 6 per year, Nigeria and Pakistan both at 4 and Brazil, Canada and France each at 2.  Canada has more than most but is far behind the US. Azerbaijan, China, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Kenya, Russia and Turkey each average 1. No other country averages more than 1.

I have heard people say this means Americans  love their guns more than their children.

Yet, things seem to be getting worse. I learned that 2021, 2022, and 2023 were the three years with the highest number of school shootings in the US.

What does this tell us about the United States? I think it tells us a lot and none of it is very pleasant.

Joe Bob Outfitters: Equipped for Armageddon


As we were driving down interstate 70 in Kansas heading west, where Sara, our GPS was leading us, we saw a huge roadside sign advertising “Joe-Bob’s outfitters,” beside a huge graphic of an AR-15 assault rifle.  Do Americans need automatic rifles to hunt deer? Or ducks? Are they such poor shots? Or are they scared that the deer will attack them? Or did they want to be ready for Armageddon?

When I arrived in Arizona and had more time, I asked Professor Google what Joe Bob’s was all about. It was not a traditional outfitter where a business would supply us for hunting or fishing. I would outfit us for guns. And it was easy.

I could order an American Tactical AR-15 MilSport RIA 5.56, 16″ Barrel, 60rd – 10″ M-LOK Handguard. And amazingly I could order it online and it would be shipped in 24 hours!  So If someone  gets ticked off he or she  can get revenge in about a day. And all it costs is $498.

American money of course.

The Dangerous World of photographing Cactuses

Argentine Giant Cactus

This was a crazy year in Arizona.  Our 3&1/2 months in Arizona were the coldest and wettest we  have experienced there.  We hung around the pool a lot less than we usually do and worst of all the cacti bloomed later than usual.  More than 2 weeks later in my opinion. Fortunately, we were staying 2 weeks longer than we often did or we might have seen almost none. That would have been catastrophic of course.


Thankfully there was the Boyce Thompson Arboretum where the cacti are so well tended they can’t wait to emerge.  Secondly, there was the Phoenix Botanical garden as well as the Tucson Botanical Garden again where tender loving care convinces the cacti it is save to come out of hiding.  Finally, there were private homes where some magnificent cacti bloomed early. But here there were dangers!


In the early morning I visited the pre-scouted cactus sites  on yards I have seen in the Johnson Ranch area where we had been living. I had picked out places I wanted to photograph.  Of course, I will not venture onto properties without permission. That is dangerous thing to do here.  Of course, walking up to doors as a stranger and asking to talk to the owners is also dangerous. A  number of people in the US this year have been shot dead for doing exactly that.

Although it was risk waking up to a strangers house unannounced I had some protection. I was not packing heat, but I had one good protective help—i.e. white skin. Most of the people shot were black skinned. That is almost suicidal. This is what happens in such a fearful country where so many of the people have guns. They shoot first and ask questions later. Who would want to take a chance on a stranger at the door?


Despair and Decline in the West


Although I acknowledge that there is much that is worthwhile in western civilization including without limiting the generality of that statement, art, literature, music, a plethora of newly recognized human rights for members of the various LGBTQ* communities, and many others. So I am not arguing that we are going to hell in a handbasket. Everything is not getting worse.  However, we should not be complacent. There are also many areas where western civilization seems to be in serious decline. On our recent trip to Arizona, I resolved to pay attention to the decline. I have blogged on some of them, but there are many others that merit consideration. I want to continue that discussion.

There has been significant decline in the west, which many have not noticed, and perhaps nowhere is that more evident than in the self-declared leader of the west, namely, the United States of America. There are many indications of that decline and some are surprising.  Frankly, after spending nearly 4 months there earlier this year the situation is grim. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death of among young Americans. How is that possible? Why is it happening? Is has even surpassed death by overdoses.

Richard A. Friedman a psychiatrist writing in the New York Times put it this way in 2018,

“Teenagers and young adults in the United States are being ravaged by a mental health crisis — and we are doing nothing about it. As of 2017, statistics show that an alarming number of them are suffering from depression and dying by suicide. In fact, suicide is now the second leading cause of death among young people, surpassed only by accidents. 

After declining for nearly two decades, the suicide rate among Americans ages 10 to 24 jumped 56 percent between 2007 and 2017.”


Of course,  gun violence is now the leading cause of death of people under the age of 18 surpassing death by accidents and suicide is the second leading cause of deaths.  Is that much better? Gun violence and suicides are the leading cause of the death of young Americans!

And most people in the US are not aware of this. They seem blinded by their religious belief that America is the best country in the world. Is that possible with such stats?

What is going on in the United States?  Is this not a sign of civilizational decline?

Policing in a Broken Society

This past year in America 5 black  cops brutally killed a young black man for no apparent reason that has been revealed. Why did that happen?

Bill Maher was  right when he said on his television show earlier this year, “What’s going on, in my view, is that society is broken. We don’t educate people anymore, discipline is all broken down, families are broken down.” I agree this is a product of a broken society and then we ask the police to solve it.  Among all the other jobs they have to deal with they are expected to hold society together as it is shredded.  They are being asked to be psychologists, marriage counsellors, social workers advocates. As Bill Maher said, “No one ever calls the cops to tell them how well the marriage is going.” It is what I always said about schools. The principal never called us ot a team meeting to tell us how well the lads were doing in school.

How could that possibly work? Trust is gone. Guns sluice through American society. That doesn’t help. Violence is bred in the bone, particularly in America. What can the police do to mend this mess? As Bill Maher said, “They are the ones who get the slop of a broken society.”  And then they are asked to do far too much. And sometimes they contribute to it.

Yet, of course, the cops are also part of that broken society. Why those 5 black cops did what they did may always remain a mystery.  They just did it.   The cops perhaps were going through a divorce, or under pressure from their landlord to pay the rent, or their kids are trying drugs and disrespect their parents. What can the cops do about that?  They can break is about all they can do under impossible conditions.

There is a bigger question: where is all the rage coming from?  This is a vitally important question without any apparent answers. The rage is clearly out there, but where did it come from? The police like the rest of us are suffering from anxiety and fear. Every day they drive into harm’s way as part of their jobs.  The cops live in a society transfused with fear, anxiety, depression, and above all hate. It is a toxic mess that no Sunday School can cure.

Of course, we must always remember that a very high percentage of cops don’t resort to killing people out of frustration.  Most of them are just trying to do an honourable job as best they can.  Yet we must not accept it when they don’t do their best or abuse the trust given to them. Society is entitled to their best. Also, we must not be surprised when the police abuse the trust and fall short. It is going to happen. A broken society cannot deliver a perfect result. Fear, anxiety, depression and hate will never produce perfection. We will never get perfect policing until we get a perfect society, at which time we won’t need the police.

As Brett Stephens also said on Maher’s show, “Every day a cop in America is shot and killed. And police deserve a lot more respect than they get.”[2]

 I do not want to be taken to be giving in to fatalism. We must insist police do a better job. We must give them the support and respect they deserve, but not blind automatic acceptance of all they do.

 The real issue about cops is the same as the real issue of guns.  It is not inadequate laws that are the problem.  The real problem is the incredible rage in American society. In many ways it is a broken society. And that means that when the pieces of glass fly, people will get hurt. The rage let loose in a broken society is going to hurt someone. Whoever is in the way will get hurt. Police and guns just happen to be right on the edge of the tears in society. And we just have to look out.

Why so much rage?


While we were in Arizona this year, before the end of January, there had been 39 mass shootings in the US.  People keep talking about better gun laws (as they should) but really there is a much bigger issue. The bigger issue is why is there so much rage in the country, particularly among young men? The mass shootings are overwhelmingly committed by angry young men. That is a very big question. And there is no simple answer but there are many plausible answers.

The gunman killed 11 people and injured another 9. After the shooting there was a lot of hand wringing and  surprise in the California community.  Their local State Senator said Monterey was “a close-knit community” and “a great place to raise children.”  Really? This is what they call a close-knit community in the US? California has the lowest gunfire mortality in the US probably because it has the strictest gun laws. Yet even in California there is a mass shooting every 8 days! Compared to communities around the world those “strict” gun laws are among the weakest! That’s how Americans like it. They want weak gun laws.

But I am actually more interested in a deeper question: why is there so much rage in America?  We have rage in Canada too but nothing like the US. What is driving young men to such violent fury? It seems to me that this question gets less attention than it should.

Adam Winkler, a professor of law at UCLA said “we can’t stop people from getting angry, but we can make it a little bit harder to get guns when they are in a passionate state.” That is a good idea, but why give up on trying to reduce the rage?  What makes him think that is hopeless? Has anyone actually tried it?

This is the issue the country should be dealing with.  The gun law debate in the US is frankly sterile. Nothing of substance happens. No one, it seems to me, is looking at the issue of that desperate anger. That is the problem Americans need to resolve. Until they do, no one can intelligibly deny that America, the self-proclaimed leader of the free world, is a country in serious decline. In Canada one of our major political parties is determined to follow America. Would that be wise? That rage seems to be coming our way. We should not amplify it.



Resentment Rarely explodes in a rational manner


While we were in Arizona, a man in Utah killed his wife and 5 children because she filed for divorce?  Why?

Just like an economic bubble does not deflate in an orderly fashion., so my theory is that when resentment explodes it does not do so in a rational manner.  This is like the irrational hatred of the Ste. Anne Manitoba dairy farmer who a few years ago burned his farm to the ground including his cattle, after he could not settle his divorce with his wife as he would have liked. If he couldn’t have the farm no one else could either. Isn’t that what the new world disorder is all about?

Like a balloon rarely deflates in an orderly fashion, so resentment rarely explodes in a rational manner. That’s why resentment is so dangerous. This is particularly significant to the most dangerous people on the planet—young men. Jihadis and other extremist groups have learned how important young men are to their cause. That is why they work so hard to radicalize them. Many of the lone wolf killers that are so common are young men filled with resentment. Many of them live in a cauldron of hate.   The jihadis then take advantage of the resentment for their own purposes.

When society is in decline. resentment is amplified.

And they make us pay a hefty price.