Gun Supremacy in America: Enough is Enough

March for Our Lives, Washington DC, March 24, 2018 (Photo: Flickr/Stephen Melkisethian)

Our country’s love affair with guns is morally depraved and literally killing our fellow citizens. Americans have the right to live in peace and feel unafraid in public. Students have a right to study in safe schools that do not herd them through metal detectors like cattle each time they enter or exit buildings. Suffice it to say that we no longer live in an age of private militias. The notion that a partially archaic Second Amendment—written in 1791—and an overfunded gun lobby should set the laws on this issue to the exclusion of moral or ethical sense makes a mockery out of our democracy. Most municipalities in the United States today have well-funded police forces invested with the task of protecting the citizenry—by and large they do a good job. The recent mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso as well as countless other similar incidents underline just how overdue judicial and regulatory reform is on this particular issue.

We must come to recognize certain facts. Many of the people committing gun violence in America including the gunman who is accused of murdering 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue are not in any way “mentally unfit”—they are simply racists, anti-Semites and white supremacists. This is not my personal opinion; it is a fact evidenced by the declarations of the shooters themselves and supported by every impartial study conducted. No psychiatrist or researcher worth their salt has backed the idea that social media isolation by itself or video game-depicted violence lead to mass shootings. 

Armenians…should be particularly sensitive to any and all expressions of racism.

The type of hateful racist mentality behind many of the mass shootings in America is similar to that of the ultra-nationalist Turk who in 2007 assassinated Hrant Dink, the peace-loving editor of Agos, in front of the newspaper’s Istanbul offices. Armenians, a people who have for centuries been subjected to countless waves of both state-sponsored and individual acts of violence in their historic homeland, should be particularly sensitive to any and all expressions of racism. (Armenian-Americans were routinely kept out of public places such as stores and restaurants at the turn of the 20th century because they were considered “dark-skinned” and therefore inferior—several essays and articles attest to physical violence against immigrant Armenians, not to mention psychological scarring.)

This includes the vile incitements to hatred that President Trump has been spewing since he first assumed office in 2016. Most of the mass shootings in America—90 percent according to a recent impartial study—have been at the hands of Caucasian males, many of whom feel they are being marginalized in American society. They would rather look down the barrel of a gun than educate themselves or fight for a truly equal society that benefits all Americans. (The cycles of violence in this country continue to feed off each other—we now have three million mostly young black and Latino males jailed in American prisons. We continue to enforce the death penalty even after DNA testing and lawyers in the Innocence Project have proven that young men such as the so-called “Central Park Five” were in fact innocent of the crimes they were convicted.)

Here are some statistics illustrated in a telling bar graph. Rates of gun-related deaths in the United States are more than 100 times higher than in Japan, nine times higher than in Germany and more than four times more elevated than in Canada. These countries are home to significantly more stringent gun control laws than the United States. Moreover, Australia has virtually eliminated gun deaths by imposing tight controls on who may or may not receive handgun licenses, and semi-automatic weapons are barred from private ownership completely. 

Anyone who thinks they need semi-automatics in their own homes to protect themselves is either deluded, brainwashed or mentally ill. We need to put an end to racism and white supremacy in America now. And we need to stop the NRA and wanton private gun ownership. No more excuses, no more lies. The very future of our society’s fabric depends on it.

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Christopher Atamian

Christopher Atamian is a noted writer and creative producer of Italian–Armenian background and the grandson of Armenian Genocide survivors. He is an alumnus of Harvard University, Columbia Business School and USC FIlm School, a former Fulbright Scholar. Apart from creative endeavors and professional activities as a senior executive in leading media companies and consultancies (ABC, Ogilvy & Mather, J.P. Morgan), Atamian has concentrated on community activism. He is the former President and a current board member of AGLA New York and in 2004 founded Nor Alik, a non-profit cultural organization responsible for producing the First Armenian International Film Festival. Atamian also co-produced the OBIE Award-winning play Trouble in Paradise in 2006, directed by Elyse Singer, as well as several music videos and short films. Atamian was selected for the 2009 Venice Biennale on the basis of his video Sarafian’s Desire and received a 2015 Ellis Island Medal of Honor. He continues to contribute critical pieces to leading publications such as The New York Times Book Review and The Huffington Post, Scenes Media and The Weekly Standard, while working on other creative endeavors in film and theater.

18 Comments

  1. There is so much wrong in Mr. Atamian’s spew that it takes more than a moment to figure out which piece of his baggage to unpack first. I note that he does not bother to argue in favor of any specific remedy.

    Let’s start with the idea that people who keep semi automatic guns for home defense are brainwashed or mentally ill.[“Anyone who thinks they need semi-automatics in their own homes to protect themselves is either deluded, brainwashed or mentally ill”]. This is an insult to your readers who have guns to protect their families.

    I think Mr. Atamian has been spending too much time at the Harvard Club instead of planet earth. As criminologists and sociologists have known for decades, Americans are unusually violent people. This characteristic goes back to Colonial Days (when there were no semi-automatic guns). In view of who many of our neighbors (of all races and income levels) are, and what they are willing to do to our families, I will retain my semi-auto weapons to defend my family and my life, thanks all the same.

    Home defense has a special purchase on many Armenians that has evaded the writer. Most of us have not forgotten that in 1914 Turks seized our guns before then murdering our grandparents or that Van and Musa Dagh were defended by our people with guns.

    Although I do not believe the Turks are coming over the Golden Gate Bridge, thousands of Americans have successfully prevented assault by the display or use of their guns; in a celebrated example of action against the very white supremacists we all revile, the “Deacons for Defense” organized to protect civil rights workers and local minority citizens in the 1960s with – wait for it – guns and lots of them.

    Mr. Atamian says that the Second Amendment is outmoded, presumably thinking that he has made his case by pointing out that it was written, as part of the Bill of Rights, in 1791. So were the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, and the Sixth.

    There is a practical and quite obvious problem Mr. Atamian ignores. Even if we could agree to make the possession of a gun illegal, which I guess is the result he seeks, it would not have much effect: criminals would still have an ample supply from the millions of guns left uncollected, or those smuggled in.

    Finally, does the author even know what a semi-auto actually is? The description covers rifles and handguns with large magazines and small. It might just be a .45 caliber 1911 model with a 7 round magazine. There are revolvers that carry 7 rounds too.

    Mr. Atamian’s bio indicates an Ivy League degree. I have one too, as well as 8 years of street patrol as a police officer. Convicted felons would routinely change up their game by carrying baseball bats in my city. Human genius and adaptation always win out.

    Nothing I say turns a blind eye upon the carnage gun-wielding maniacs and evil people inflict on the innocent, especially children. However, cliche’s of the kind the author solemnly offers do nothing to move the discussion forward and everything to show only his accurate and timely sense of political fashion.

  2. JUST FINISHED READING CHRISTOPHER ATAMIANS ARTICLE!
    My first reaction was to immediately send an e.mAil and CANCEL my 65 year old
    Subscription to the Weekly.
    Fortunately, after reading the first comment by JDA, I decided “ to not give up without a fight”.

    Once AGAIN, the Weekly is spewing partisan, liberal, OPINIONS about AMERICA and American news in the ARMENIAN WEEKLY. Mr. Atamian should be sending his OPINIONS to the American newspapers and NOT the Armenian Weekly who appear to revel in offering a platform to those who want express themselves about AMERICAN political news.

    Once AGAIN, as I have expressed my sentiments before on this subject, I DO NOT SUBSCRIBE TO THE ARMENIAN WEEKLY FOR AMERICAN NEWS. I subscribe to the Armenian Weekly FOR ARMENIAN NEWS and news related to Armenians NOT USA
    Constitution and Mr. Atamians thoughts and opinions.

    I do happen to agree with JDA’s comment and especially where he pointed out that at the beginning of the Genocide, the first thing the Turks did was to confiscate guns from the Armenians.

    Dear editors of the Armenian Weekly, PLEASE stop printing articles in the Weekly that have to do with American politics…. that is NOT purpose of the Armenian Weekly.

    Violet gavoor
    38294 Ladywood court
    Livonia, MI

  3. Whatever strange insecurity leads jda to feel a ned to comment on the presence or absence of Ivy League degrees in my bio leaves me speechless. I do not agree with jda that Americans are inherently more or less violent than anyone else–that is either a strange type of biological determinism (the same that says “Turks evil, Armenians good” or he agrees with my underlying assumption that something is making our society more violent than others–and I believe the presence of hundreds of millions of guns contributes to the violence. I would still rather have a criminal come after me with a baseball bat than a gun or a semi automatic weapon: I assume jda agrees that a killer–whether “sane” or “insane” can do less harm at a public mall with a bat than with guns or explosives. Finally like other here and on FB who feel free to make ad hominem attacks on me and my opinions–although they have never met me and know a limited scope of my views–he does nothing to suggest an alternate solution to mine. JDA must at least agree that these killings and violence are a disturbing problem–I welcome an alternative to mine. Anything that prevents the terror we now witness is welcome, and I say this with no sarcasm intended. I am also at a loss as to why people are send me nice, positive messages to my private email and FB etxts but do not post these comments live? :)

  4. Let me get this straight.
    You are saying that Armenians should be for gun control?
    Did you forget what preceded the Armenian Genocide, Mr. Atamian?
    What exactly the gun discussion has to do with racism?

    You are a far left activist. I get that, but using our suffering in the Armenian Genocide to push the far left agenda, is insane, and as an Armenian, I reject such people within us who are willing to play such games.
    Almost ALL of the genocides and atrocities in the world started with disarming the victims. Your grand father should have told you that, just like my father told me how the turks removed weapons from the Armenian population under the same exact excuses, too many gun related deaths, and less than 4 years later they were dragging Armenians, including my father, then 5 year old to watch his mother die from lack of medicine, water and food, as she was sick.

    You want that in the US? What is wrong with you?
    Also your Australia argument is completely flawed and based on cherry picked data, which is a typical tactic from the left.

    You, as an Armenia, even when being a leftist, should know better than convincing your fellow Armenians to give up their legally owned arms, and your attempt to link fighting against racism with your gun grabbing agenda is pathetic.
    No one is support racism when they defend their 2nd amendment right. Period.
    There will always be those who abuse the law and commit crime, so why punish the law abiding citizens and prevent them from defending themselves?
    You are living in lower crime area and probably in a gated community or where police are immediately available or armed security is. Not everyone has your prilidged life, and we care about our families, and want to protect them.

    “This includes the vile incitements to hatred that President Trump has been spewing since he first assumed office in 2016.”
    There you have it, I was waiting when you are going to blame President Trump on this.
    You are sad case of ignorant person who despite his academic background lacks basic knowledge and basic real education in what life has.

    When did Trump incite hatred? Other than your lies? Never did.
    He is not a politically correct president, unlike the far left hack we had before him.
    In fact, he is not a politician, he just doesn’t care about your victim card you pull when you have no real argument, which is every time.

    The hatred that you are spewing is the problem, and most of your accusations seem to be projection, but then again, I am stating the obvious.

    “Most of the mass shootings in America—90 percent according to a recent impartial study—have been at the hands of Caucasian males”

    Yet someone who went out of their way to cherry pick discredited Australia gun control success data, is unable to cite the source of this latest claim.
    Your entire article seems to be from some angry leftist teenager.

    Your last paragraph pretty much says it all.

    “Anyone who thinks they need semi-automatics in their own homes to protect themselves is either deluded, brainwashed or mentally ill. We need to put an end to racism and white supremacy in America now. And we need to stop the NRA and wanton private gun ownership. No more excuses, no more lies. The very future of our society’s fabric depends on it.”

    That’s your fantasy land, but in reality:
    – Criminals don’t care about your gun control and laws, they will get their guns anyway.
    – If gun control laws help, why didn’t the hundreds of them help so far? What would more gun laws do that existing laws didn’t?
    – Criminals don’t care by your false narrative, gun free zones, and virtue signaling.
    They still get their guns, still come at innocent people.
    – The NRA never sold one gun, never had any of its members shoot or commit crime. You are just another puppet of the far left, mindlessly repeating their lies and their weird, and unhealthy obsession with the NRA.
    – Anyone who thinks that criminals care about gun control laws or will not shoot if you don’t have a gun or if you are in a gun free zone, is either deluded, brainwashed or mentally ill, or in your case, flat about lying and spreading propaganda.
    – Over 90% of shooting related crimes happened in gun free zone, have you asked yourself why, before you went on your pathetic rant? Or you just spew whatever you are indoctrinated with by the far left like an obedient minion?
    – Tell us why mass shootings continue to happen in California, Chicago, Baltimore, and New York, all with strict gun control laws, and in some cases like California, even a ban on “high capacity” magazine.

    There are more, but I know I am wasting my time. People like you just spew such stuff and run away, are never capable of having a sane, objective and fact based discussion. Your NRA and Trump derangement shows that you are just another leftist and arguing with people like you is a waste of time, that is assuming this comment makes it through the censor’s hands.

    So go ahead, run on this, and we, the law abiding citizens, will not give up our 2nd amendment rights no matter how you intimidate or indoctrinate others.

  5. Please it is becoming laughable … why you thing Armenians lost life lend culture and much more ? THEY DIDNT HAVE GUNS your lovable communist LENIN give turks the gun shame this is printed in ARMENIANWEEKLY

  6. “Americans are unusually violent people.”
    You exposed yourself as a troll.
    For few minutes you had me almost believe you were sincere.

    Not sure what is more vile. A disgraceful article by Christopher Atamian, your trolling disguised as a rational 2nd amendment defender, or Armenian Weekly’s censorship, preventing my response, as an Armenian and as a son of actual Armenian Genocide witness and survivor, and yet allowing what seems to be not an Armenian person’s response smearing all Armenians.

  7. It’s amazing how American Armenians are upset with the Armenian Weekly promoting liberal/globalist ideals in the US but are totally fine with it when the Armenian Weekly does the same with Armenia. You people here are part of the reason why we have a George Soros funded government in Armenia today.

  8. I agree that gun violence is a major problem, though it is not easy to buy a weapon legally or register to do so.

    And yet gun control advocates rarely mention the gun violence committed by those who illegally possess guns, such as in Chicago and Detroit.

    Many of those who commit such violence in inner cities and Democrat-controlled cities are Black and Hispanic. Maybe that’s why the Left does not usually mention this as a problem.

    Chicago: https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2019/08/05/weekend-gun-violence-mass-shootings/

    Detroit: https://www.clickondetroit.com/news/detroit-residents-react-to-weekend-full-of-gun-violence

  9. Christopher,
    You should really stop virtue signaling. You sound like a broken leftist record spitting out leftist propaganda. You are a news and book review “journalist” right? Or are you something else, an activist perhaps?
    In my honest opinion your opinion is the same garbage that has been spewed out by every totalitarian regime. You need to look at the fact that guns aren’t the problem. Culture is. Not “gun culture” but actual culture. What your opinion article misses a big target. The target is that you just compared the most multicultural, multinational, multi-everything country that has existed longer than any regime in recent history. This is the most successful country in the world without a white culture at its core, but an AMERICAN one.
    The countries you compared the United States to have a higher percentage of white people or they are almost 100% homogenous. The only reason you and gunpolicy.org put in Japan and South Korea is that you didn’t want to seem too racist in the fact you only compared the United States to white majority countries. Sounds racist to me honestly. Comparing multiethnicities to white majorities? Seems you lack basic understanding of statistics. If you take out all the other races in the US and just compare whites in US to majority white Australia you would see the rates are the same or almost similar. Want to look up those statistics look at the FBI crime statistics if we take out the ethnicities that comprise the united states, the united states line up with every western European country. Google it, I not here to help you learn how to find information out, you should know how to do that being a Journalist. Was it racist for me to point that out? No it was racist of you not too. Because in the end this is a cultural problem and a moral one. We don’t teach morality in schools and we don’t have very good parents that spend enough time with our children doing so either. This is especially a problem in democratic majority controlled areas of the country.
    Please done repeat these;
    The Armenians in Ottoman Empire 1915 – Guns taken away.
    Jews in Nazi Germany – Guns Taken away.
    Soviet Union – Guns taken away.
    Azerbaijan and Soviet Union – Guns taken away – Look at Operation Ring.
    Bosnia – Guns taken away before Srebrenica happened.
    Karabakh – They tried to take the guns away. Even in Yerevan regular Armenians had to raid Soviet bases to get weapons. You should know your history? No?
    ETC… ETC… it continues to happen, you take away the gun, the weapon is there to protect and not to harm. Guns don’t kill people, people with no moral code do.
    I was born in Baku Azerbaijan. My father had only a kitchen knife to protect us in 1988. Especially when Azeris where going door to door. I will never let that be the only weapon I have to protect my family.

    Mikhail Astvatsaturov

  10. McVeigh didn’t go for a gun, bat, or knife, but fertilizer and it took out an entire building, killed 168, injured 700. You cant take away one thing thing you will solve the problem. Its like taking away a tool and thinking human ingenuity wont create a new tool to fill its place.

  11. Mr. Atamian is clear thinking & unbiased in stating the facts of the insanity of gun proliferation = violence in this country. Thank you for this article.

  12. Why is it taking my posts so long to post? Says “Moderation.” Who gets to decide what is posted and what is not? If this is a free press then you shouldn’t moderate. That’s why America is so great, 100% free speech, that’s why it doesn’t fail compared to other countries. Oh and when did this newspaper start listing New York Times talking points by using Christopher Atamian. For all that is right; he works for that Genocide denying paper but you still have him post his opinions? What next you’ll Anna Kasparian on here telling us guns are bad but working with Genocide denying Turks it good? So which is it free speech or censored speech? Decide.

  13. An entire book can be written about how ridiculous this article is. Chicago and Baltimore have the highest rates of violence despite having the strictest gun laws. New Hampshire and Maine have the lowest rates of crime while having some of the most lenient gun laws in the nation.

  14. For Mr. Atamian:

    The merit of your argument, such as it is, has nothing to do with whether, or even if you went to school. Yet your Harvard bio entry is the first thing the reader encounters. The reference to Harvard makes yours an implicit “argument from authority,” but I assure you nobody actually cares, apart from taking pride that a Gess Hye went to America’s (fourth) best college. Just think how much better you would have done if you were 100 per cent Armenian and had gone to Yale.

    You answer none of my or the other posters’ substantive critiques. You still do not seem even to know what a semi-auto is. A semi auto is definitely a type of gun. [“I would still rather have a criminal come after me with a baseball bat than a gun or a semi automatic weapon”]

    As Harvard Prof. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts. Of the industrialized nations, America is the most violent. Plenty of serious violence is committed without guns. Hence my earlier remark about the midnight felons’ softball league.

    That we have many violent people is something I saw daily on street patrol in a notoriously active city for 8 years. But the roots of excessive violence go back centuries, well before 1776 which was itself kinda violent in its own right too. These rates of murder and other violent crimes are easy to research, even for a Harvard alum. Ask any Native American, or African American, for that matter.

    It is certainly true that a person with a semi-auto gun or even a street sweeper shotgun can in theory inflict more massive, horrific, and obscene damage. That observation does not lead straight to the conclusion that such weapons should be confiscated, as you allege, or that those who hold them – like me – are idiots or evil as you also allege.

    Before the conclusion of confiscation can be reached, we need also to figure out its cost. I can think of two. The first cost is the lives lost or damaged because a law-abiding person did not have access to a weapon needed to defend themselves and their family. We know that studies vary, but even the most liberal agree that the display or use of guns saves lives. There is even CDC survey research suggesting that three times as many lives are saved each year than are taken by the display or use of guns in self defense (as compared to Kleck’s):

    “The final adjusted prevalence of 1.24% therefore implies that in an average year during 1996–1998, 2.46 million U.S. adults used a gun for self-defense. This estimate, based on an enormous sample of 12,870 cases (unweighted) in a nationally representative sample, strongly confirms the 2.5 million past-12-months estimate obtained Kleck and Gertz (1995)….CDC’s results, then, imply that guns were used defensively by victims about 3.6 times as often as they were used offensively by criminals.”

    The second problem is cultural and political. Peace officers sent out to confiscate guns will be fired on, and few will be willing to do so. If the government uses force, the results will be insurrection. Americans love their guns. Americans are not an obedient people. See 1776,

    Yes, I agree that the profusion of young males wanting to kill anonymous people is a new and serious problem starting in about 1964 with Whitman at UT. I disagree that white Supremacy is the cause, even if it is associated with several [NOT ALL] of the shooters. When young men are this alienated, and this violent, we need to know why. Many causative factors have been suggested. Confiscatory laws will not end the carnage.

    You bemoan that people are saying mean things to you. May I suggest that you look at your own writing and your insults ? It’s one thing to say that semi-auto rifles should be limited or banned, etc. It’s another to say that those of us who have them for home defense are “deluded, brainwashed or mentally ill.”

    As for Mr. Tavitian:

    I’m as Armenian as you are, not that it matters.

  15. “That’s why America is so great, 100% free speech, that’s why it doesn’t fail compared to other countries”.

    Well, for those particular former refugees who come from countries like Azerbaijan, it’s certainly very understandable that they would view America as being “so great”; however, there are so many people in America who don’t view it as being “so great”. There are over 40 million people living in poverty in the United States, with another 50-60 million more who are less than one inch away from living in poverty. Furthermore, four out of ten Americans are struggling to afford basic needs, such as: housing, utilities, groceries, and health care. This is indeed horribly shameful for a country that is wealthier than any other country on this planet. Instead of wasting $700 billion a year on building all of those stupid military weapons (which are for the purpose of intimidating and terrorizing the whole world), the United States government should instead spend that much-needed money on improving America’s deteriorating situation as well as improving the lives of the American people. Yeah, fat chance of that!

    And, it’s certainly not “so great” that there is such an enormous amount of gun shootings taking place everyday in the cities and towns of America. Arming yourself with a gun and shooting people, has become an American cultural tradition. Hey, we don’t have that kind of barbarity here in Armenia. We don’t have mass shootings in shopping malls, supermarkets, restaurants, parks, etc. We don’t have drive-by shootings. We don’t have young guys armed with guns, who go around and shoot at people on the streets. Besides the police, military, and Yerkrapah, nobody else has access to guns over here. This explains the reason why we have such a safe, civilized society here in Armenia. As a matter of fact, the police officers that you see on the streets of Yerevan, don’t even carry guns.

    In terms of free speech, there’s no one particular country in this world which has 100% free speech. But anyway, there are indeed many other countries (including Armenia) which have more free speech than America. Here in Armenia, any group of people has the freedom to go out and protest on the streets, unlike in America, where they would have to request a permit to hold protests; and even if their requests are accepted by the authorities (which is less than 50% of the time), in many cases, the uncivilized, violent American police will break up those protests, and even use violence against the protesters. So no, this is not the definition of free speech. And, just imagine if the folks over in the United States attempted to do what the folks here in Armenia successfully did back in the spring of 2018 (Velvet Revolution)? Well, a combination of the American police and military would immediately spray gunshots at everyone; it would be a complete massacre. Not only is that not the definition of free speech, but in addition, that’s the definition of being a savagely violent dictatorship.

    As for the Velvet Revolution protesters, not one single shot was fired at them; in fact, not the slightest bit of violence was used against them. They were totally free to do as they wished, and they ended up being successful.

  16. Has anyone proven that gun crime has been committed by sane people? Therefore, why not tackle the real problem, which is mental and cultural. If it is not guns it could be a truck driven into peaceful people and killed dozens. Also I do not think this article belongs in the Armenian Weekly. If the editors thought it did, then a counter opinion should have been posted as well. It would have been educational and would have started a discussion of the issue.

  17. Mr. Atamian, thank you for your thoughtful and insightful article. It is really too bad that Armenians cannot embrace the thinkers and writers in our own communities. I commend your fortitude and generosity as many intellectuals simply refuse to engage. As for the pushback in some comments, I cannot help but think that it is an outcome of transgenerational transmission of genocide trauma: What isn’t processed and grieved in one generation is repackaged and passed on to subsequent generations in novel manifestations. In the contemporary American context, it is showing up as an affinity toward ideas that potentiate Trumpism.

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