On Culture, Kindness, Firearms, and Good Intentions.

nina alter
4 min readJan 27, 2016


This article originally published 25 June 2014 in The Bold Italic

A public tragedy happens. Media outlets storm the airwaves with non-stop coverage. The families impacted plead their hearts to the millions fixated in mourning. It becomes clear to everybody that this could have been prevented. Solution? Let’s make some new gun laws!

New legislation that began its review hearings yesterday in California appears to be one such well intentioned effort at fixing a very real problem: mass killing sprees. Its co-sponsor is Assemblyman Das Williams, whose Santa Barbara district was recently impacted by that misogynist little shit I won’t further glorify by naming, who killed six people in May.

We live in an increasingly fearful and competitive culture — one that alienates more than it unites, and one that influences folks to judge more than it encourages empathy-for and support-of one another. “Fuck You I Got Mine” has etched itself atop “Land of The Free” as a slogan befitting today’s American values. What does this new bit of gun legislation do to address the aforementioned summation of what I suspect the root problem to be? Nothing.

A common rallying-cry following all the shootings has been “Make semi-automatic rifles illegal!” Ask kids who live in the projects how successful they think that one will go over (assuming it passes as law) — how it may make their communities more peaceful places to live. It won’t. Black, Latino, and other communities marginalized by poverty have been suffering for decades in systemic-poverty/racism imposed ghettos under gang rule, and drowning in both guns and drugs. Are we looking to solve for all American violence, or just the headline-news making white boys on entitlement sprees? Or, do we just want to blame it all on ISIS to spare ourselves real analysis of our own problems, while enabling more military spending/activity abroad?

We need to be a kinder culture, and one that brings people in more than it pushes them out. Perhaps a less stressful culture to just survive in, too (healthcare, anyone?).

Regarding high performance firearms ownership: had any of the mass gunmen been required to undergo extensive training, then prove their merits of marksmanship and firearms safety in order to use or purchase their own semi-automatic rifles or handguns? I doubt they could have ever acquired their firearms to begin with.

Ammo has also been notoriously hard to get in recent years, which has influenced those of us who responsibly own guns (and many who are also a bit nuts) to stock-up. If ammo could be made more readily available, then the urge for law-abiding Americans to hoard it would dissipate … and laws prohibiting the accumulation of thousands of rounds could go into place and be enforced. But a totally separate piece of new legislation — SB53 — does the opposite. Though as usual, with golden intentions.

Speaking specifically to the search-and-siezure the legislation being reviewed today proposes: I feel it’s too opportune for abuse, while also not providing solutions that would merit its costs. But I do think it’s reasonable to have in its place a provision that allows for search and seizure of an arsenal-accumulation of ammunition. As a short-term solution, that would expire in 5–10 years after a review of its impact in the problem space. Seizure of the firearms themselves? No. That’s a half-baked solution, when the full ecosystem of firearms ownership needs to be rethought to more closely resemble our DMV system, than it does the simpler and more lightweight regulation of liquor. Not to mention that it’s a black-and-white violation of the Second Amendment (cough, the NRA has A LOT of money, lawyers, and determination — more change, fewer uphill battles please!).

Longer-term solutions? Reduce student-to-teacher ratios in schools to ensure more human contact, monitoring, and nurturing of kids from across the full spectrum of home environments. The creation of a “Sane NRA” would also be fantastic: a lobbying organization to support lawmakers in evolving firearms laws. An organization that unlike the NRA, would be run by ethical human beings that represent the interests of firearms owners — not the manufacturers. Folks who value cooperation, and who want to actually help lawmakers craft meaningful legislation that is more likely to solve problems than advance political careers. Likewise, an organization that would work with the ATF, and not actively against it or other law enforcement agencies’ ability to work with existing laws — as the NRA has been proven to do.

Among all my firearms owning friends, we all agree that this idea of a “Sane, non right-wing-nut NRA” organization desperately needs to be realized. Drafting new laws with existing laws on the books that are hamstrung by crippled enforcement agencies, will accomplish what? Current laws specifying mechanical legalities and illegalities are also too pedantic for most gun owners to even keep track of. Case in point: in a tactical firearms class I took a year ago, we called the local sheriff to ask about a mechanical detail being legal or prohibited in AR15s within California, and even the sheriff couldn’t answer our question! That says a lot. We need real change, and we need it now.

Note: The headline of my above article, as published, was “We Need A Saner NRA, Not These Crazy New Gun Laws.” That headline was a great learning experience for me as a writer, in how much one leeeetle editorial decision left to a publication, can and will impact how readers take-in the whole article. Many of the article’s responses sought to bite my head off, as a tyrannical gun-nut. Which bummed me out, a lot—as I wrote the above as a thinkpiece, and not as Yet Another Agent Of Polarization. Anywho—so in this republishing, I’ve changed the title to more accurately reflect that.

As with my other piece for The Bold Italic, the above would not be anywhere near as coherent or readable as it is, w/o the generous editorial help of Jennifer Maerz.



nina alter

Maker of things. Instigator of change. Optimist. Estropreneur. For now. Michigan girl, always. bigwheel.net