Jordan Peterson on gun control

The Canadian professor calls for personal responsibility over legislation.

Jordan Peterson on gun control
Jordan Peterson speaks at ICC Sydney Theatre on February 26, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Don Arnold/WireImage)
  • Shortly after the Las Vegas shooting, Jordan Peterson replied to a question about gun control in America.
  • Peterson believes only the police and army being armed is dangerous, and that the citizenry should be equally dangerous.
  • He also feels that legislation would do "zero" to stop school shootings in America.

In 2016, 64 percent of homicides in the United States resulted from gun violence; in Canada, the number was 30.5 percent the year prior. England and Wales posted much lower numbers during those two years: just 4.5 percent of deaths resulted from guns.

We're drowning in statistics. More charts likely exist explaining gun violence in America than any other topic. Each one highlights the same issue: Americans have issues. This we know. When those issues involve firearms, we're particularly ready to claim the American promise of being "number one." No longer do we dominate in education, quality of life, happiness, life expectancy, or health care. But guns, we've got them.

The reasons are manifold; no one denies that. Speculating over why so many guns are fired in this country is useless. But that doesn't stop some people from trying.

When asked if the right to bear arms is equivalent to free speech, Jordan Peterson replies that nothing is as essential as the right to free speech. His father, a hunter, collected 200 single-shot rifles because "he believes in aiming carefully." Northwestern Canada, Peterson continues, is a rural, hunting culture, where "people take their guns seriously."

The right to bear arms, he continues, is an integral part of a free society. If only the police and army are "allowed to be dangerous," there's going to be problems. He attempts to end his response there, then reconsiders.

Jordan Peterson: Las Vegas Shooting and Gun Control

This video is shot in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting on October 1, 2017, in which a lone gunman fired over 1,100 rounds into the Route 91 Harvest music festival. After killing 58 people and injuring another 851, the gunman killed himself. This was the deadliest mass shooting by a single individual in U.S. history.

Peterson notes that gun legislation debates kick off after incidents such as this, with "each side" hunkering down in their corner, refusing to budge. He continues,

"I think that it's unfortunate to use an event like the Las Vegas shooting or the Columbine shooting to make political capital."

It is Peterson's belief that it is a right that the individual should be "allowed or even encouraged to be dangerous, but controlled." He concludes this segment by encouraging individual responsibility, then references his audience to a biblical lecture he gave on Cain and Abel.

It's not hatred for other people that drives someone to shoot down into a defenseless crowd from a hotel window; it's hatred for being itself. Being embittered leads to outrage, which leads to becoming homicidal and even genocidal. Peterson speculates that such shooters are, in essence, out for "revenge against God for the outrage of creation."

This isn't the first time Peterson cited anger at a supreme being as the impetus for murder. When discussing a reckless driver navigating sidewalks in Toronto, killing 10 and injuring 16, he said the murderer, a self-proclaimed incel — "involuntary celibates" believe women are sexual objects and little else — was angry at God for the fact that women reject them. Murderous impulses, it appears, often stem from an offense by the Big Guy Upstairs.

The Las Vegas shooting could have been inspired by neurological pathology, he continues, though he believes the embitterment hypothesis is correct. He cites a Steven Pinker tweet that suggests that the media not publish the names of shooters. Peterson suggests this last-ditch arrogance provides an opportunity for them to be in the spotlight — their meaningless lives have amounted to something, however horrendous that thing might be.

Jordan Peterson during his lecture at UofT, January 10, 2017. Photo credit: Rene Johnston / Toronto Star via Getty Images

That is all to say Peterson appears to believe gun control is useless at best and dangerous at worst, given that it reduces our own opportunity for "dangerousness." When asked if gun legislation would help stop school shootings, he replied:

"I think that in the United States the probability that gun legislation would stop the school shootings is basically zero. School-shooting culture doesn't seem to have manifested itself in other places as much as it has in the U.S. And I can't tell exactly why that is. It's conceivable that it has something to do with the more rough and ready attitude towards guns."

By the time I entered second grade in 1982, I walked the half-mile to Parkview Elementary. Two years later, the mile-plus walk to Joyce Kilmer was how I commuted for the next five years. Times change; today few parents would allow their young children to walk such distances in any suburb or city.

I also never experienced active shooter drills in school. This fact has not biased me against guns. I enjoy shooting skeet; while I've never hunted, I'd be open to trying. Given that I partake in the end cycle of animal life when consuming them, participating in the beginning would be both informative and valuable.

What I couldn't imagine is standing in front of the parents of the children murdered in Sandy Hook, staring them in the eyes and pontificating about the "outrage of creation" or being mad at God for not getting laid. Yes, the country is divided in our reactions to gun control. Yet when the debate leaves the realm of basic human emotions, you have to question its worth.

Not that Peterson is necessarily wrong in this regard. The psychology of murder is as intense as the act of it. We just get so caught up in the debate we forget about the humans these violent actions affect. While I can't imagine the need for owning 200 single-shot rifles, so be it if the hunting brings satisfaction and sustenance. But thinking this problem is going to work itself when more people take personal responsibility is simply ignorant.

Legislation matters. When laws allow for the mentally ill and emotionally disturbed to stockpile armaments, there is no need for debate. Basic common sense suffices — one would hope.

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A landslide is imminent and so is its tsunami

An open letter predicts that a massive wall of rock is about to plunge into Barry Arm Fjord in Alaska.

Image source: Christian Zimmerman/USGS/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • A remote area visited by tourists and cruises, and home to fishing villages, is about to be visited by a devastating tsunami.
  • A wall of rock exposed by a receding glacier is about crash into the waters below.
  • Glaciers hold such areas together — and when they're gone, bad stuff can be left behind.

The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.

Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .

"It could happen anytime, but the risk just goes way up as this glacier recedes," says hydrologist Anna Liljedahl of Woods Hole, one of the signatories to the letter.

The Barry Arm Fjord

Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach

Image source: Matt Zimmerman

The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.

Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest

Image source: whrc.org

There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.

The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.

"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."

Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.

What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord

Moving slowly at first...

Image source: whrc.org

"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."

The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.

Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.

Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.

While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.

Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."

How do you prepare for something like this?

Image source: whrc.org

The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:

"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."

In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.

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