More Back and Forth on Missoula’s Ordinance Requiring Background Checks for Gun Transfer Sales Ignores Underlying Sickness

by William Skink

The Missoulian’s editorial team is of the opinion that the new background check being pursued by City Council is wrong for Missoula. I agree. Pete Talbot vehemently disagrees, calling the opinion pitiful in the title of this post.

This rhetorical dance will keep going because the violence will keep happening. I don’t know why our society is so sick, but it is.

After each mass-casualty gun rampage, the sides line up and take their shots at each other, figurative of course. And gun sales spike.

My reasoning for purchasing a gun was not a knee-jerk reaction to the type of gun violence that statistically I’ll probably never be threatened by. Instead it’s my increasing exposure to the broken systems processing unstable people with complicated problems that often include trauma, mental illness and substance abuse.

Today the Missoulian has a story up about an 18 year old kid who pulled a gun on some pedestrians in a road rage incident. Austin Tea Miles had a semi-automatic handgun that he retrieved from his car, cocked it, and pointed it at the unnamed pedestrians.

Austin is also on probation, pre-trial supervision and going through treatment. This is what he said to Judge Andersen to try and get his $50,000 bond reduced:

“Lately, I’ve been in treatment and I’ve been applying myself in classes I find beneficial,” he said. “I’ve never missed a court date. I just got this new job. All my (urine analyses) have been clean lately for pre-trial, which is really, really difficult to do and I’ve been working really hard toward that. I’ve been putting in community service hours at Goodwill. I’m doing everything I can to keep my nose clean. I’m open to signing up for anger management classes or counseling or whatever. I would go do this today, your honor.”

As the same back and forth goes on and on about gun violence, as mass-casualty shootings keep happening at a pace that his hard to fathom, I wonder when people will start figuring out that somehow America is failing its young men?

We don’t know what kind of life Austin Miles had as a kid or how he came to need treatment by the age of 18. We also don’t know how those nameless pedestrians, who probably thought they were about to be killed, are going to process the trauma they experienced.

On a personal note, I was recently accosted by a mentally unstable individual and it sucked. Processing this kind of thing takes time because the ripples creep up on you. When you feel like you are directly threatened, that is a form of trauma, and it takes conscious work to come to terms with that sudden loss of safety and what it means to keep walking out the door into the world.

I get the desire to want to do something, anything, to mitigate risk, but this ordinance doesn’t produce a benefit that is worth the cost of further polarization and litigation.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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13 Responses to More Back and Forth on Missoula’s Ordinance Requiring Background Checks for Gun Transfer Sales Ignores Underlying Sickness

  1. petetalbot says:

    We’ve been through this before. Pushing for tougher gun laws doesn’t mean we should ignore society’s other ills, quite the contrary. I completely support efforts to tackle the “trauma, mental illness and substance abuse” problems in our city, state and country.

    But your post makes my point for me. You have an 18-year-old with a substance abuse problem waving around a semi-automatic pistol at a pedestrian during some road rage incident. And you think expanded background checks for gun purchases is a bad idea?

    Your last line puzzles me, too. Polarization? LGBT rights are polarizing. Keystone XL pipeline is polarizing. Abortion is polarizing. Most issues that matter are polarizing. You think we should back off on reigning in the gun violence because it’s polarizing?

    And finally, the potential for litigation really has you concerned? C’mon.

    Sorry about you threats against you by the mentally unstable person, though. That does suck.

    • Big Swede says:

      You should “back off” gun control because a large majority of Montanans favor none.

      Ever wonder why Cowgirl has avoid this subject? They know its a loser politically.

      • petetalbot says:

        I don’t fault Cowgirl for not broaching the gun issue. This is Montana, after all, and Cowgirl appears to be the unofficial site of the Montana Democratic Party. I’ve always had a weakness for the unpopular issues, Swede. Often times, at a later date, they turn out to be popular.

    • no, Pete, I don’t think expanded background checks are a bad idea, but I’m not surprised you would misrepresent my position. what I do think is that doing this at the municipal level is a waste of time for the reasons Dan Brooks and the Missoulian editorial board clearly articulated.

      you are clearly so anti-gun that a simple cost/benefit analysis is apparently beyond your comprehension. you made that clear when you went after me for soliciting advice on purchasing a handgun.

      but Missoula is going to do what Missoula is going to do, symbolism over substance. and while we are wasting time over this, the issues that directly threaten me are getting worse.

      • petetalbot says:

        Please do that cost/benefit analysis for me, Skink. A life or two v. some litigation, some inconvenience? By the way, aren’t you curious about where that 18-year-old got a semi-automatic pistol? I know they’re easy to come by but still … I doubt we’ll see any follow-up on that, though.
        And I “went after” you when you decided to buy a handgun? I think the word I used was “disappointed.” I’m always disappointed when guns are thought of as a solution to one’s immediate problems. I wasn’t singling you out.
        Anyway, you can thank me later for continually providing fodder for your site.

        • I think it’s more like Republicans should be thanking you for making their job of winning elections easier.

        • petetalbot says:

          I suppose Republicans will use the ordinance as a wedge issue in the upcoming municipal elections. (I know the elections are nonpartisan, but who are we kidding?) I think it will come down to pocketbook issues, though: property taxes, city spending, job growth. I know the conservatives in Ward 1 and 2 are running as anti-tax candidates. Anyway, we’ll see in a few weeks if the gun ordinance costs us seats on council. I’m betting the Democrats will maintain a strong majority, though. Get back to me after the election.

        • Pete, you slithering moral coward, I have done nothing at ID to warrant being banned except argue forcefully with you. Whether it was you or Pogie that banned me, I find you both to be reprehensible invertebrates.

  2. Operation Phoenix in Vietnam was a program where innocent civilians were targeted and murdered in cold blood. Theoretically the object was to kill a few Vietcong infiltrators in the process, but truth is a little uglier – they wanted to induce a state of fear in the population and also get rid of local community leaders. The final toll is as high as 40,000, though we’ll never know. Half a million (some says million) people were murdered in Indonesia during that time in a similar manner. By our side.

    That was us, your country, your leaders. My question is: Where do they get the people they needed to commit cold blooded murder on that scale? It was face-to-face killing, not bombs from on high. They had to identify, recruit and train the killers. Then they returned stateside to become … accountants? I know of one participant who entered politics, Senator Bob Kerrey.

    It did not start in Vietnam, and did not end there. Our military recruits, breeds and trains mentally unstable murderers. Basic training is a dehumanization process. PTSD is the real human reacting.

    I don’t wonder that we have mentally unstable people wandering around. Our culture breeds them. What if we also had leaders who used them to achieve policy ends? Do you imagine that they engage in such activities overseas, but that we are exempt at home? I know nothjng about Rosewell and refuse to look into it, but do know that the quality of leadership in our land is quite mad.


    Want to see a leftists head explode? Start breaking out the statistics about gun crimes in areas with severe gun restrictions, like Illinois. Or start talking about nutjobs targeting gun-free zones where they know they’ll meet little or no resistance.

    The basic problems we have are simple; First, violence is hard-wired into our American Society. On the whole, we are violent, independent people. We celebrate winning our freedom in wars against Britain. We think men are free, or they are nothing.

    Second, our Bill of Rights applies to nutjobs also. We, as a society, would never tolerate the Feds going to the gun shops, getting copies of the Form 4473, and going out and interviewing gun-purchasers. I can hear the questions – “What do you mean you LIKE shooting? What are you practicing for? Do you support President Obama?” and then deciding if that individual is some kind of sociopath. Never happen in America, although it has happened in many other countries.

    We need mandatory extra sentences for people who commit gun crimes. If you rob somebody, you go to jail, if you use a gun, tack on a mandatory 5 more years.

    I’ve seen lots of people like Pete Talbot & Pogie – they fear guns, yet if they were in serious trouble they would call the Police, and then hope somebody with a gun comes to save them.

    My wife used to chastise me, when the Elementary Schools would send home their gun ‘Pledge’ for parents to sign and send back, saying that we, the parents would keep guns away from children, etc. I would add a couple of paragraphs, saying that my kids had access to .22 rifles that they considered their own, and access to other weapons 24/7/365, and that I had taught them to shoot, and that they valued human life too much to ever misuse a gun.

    The leftists got more than they bargained for with Barack Hussein Obama – as he has been the best gun salesman in American history for the last 6 years, and as a consequence there are now 300 million privately owned firearms in America, and stockpiles of ammunition in half our homes.

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