On Killing

On Killing

This is a discussion on On Killing within the Defensive Books, Video & References forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; A couple of months ago, we had a thread asking "could you pull the trigger if you had to?" This book deals with that question. ...

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Thread: On Killing

  1. #1
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    On Killing

    A couple of months ago, we had a thread asking "could you pull the trigger if you had to?"

    This book deals with that question. It's title is "On Killing....the Psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society" by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. It seems to be a pretty good study of how hard it truly is for human beings to actually and intentionally destroy another.

    The majority of the book is dedicated to historical military kill rates and how they have changed over the years due to the different ways of training recruits....from Civil War style shooting at bullseye training targets to modern man-shaped popup style targets. The gist of the research is that the aversion to killing a real person must be purged via desensitizing the recruit to violence...otherwise, a person will not deliberately aim a gun at another with lethal intent (except for the 2% of people with psychopathic personalities...in wartime, they are the ones who thrive on conflict and are not as affected by exhaustion as the other 98% ).

    His study gets into the methods of desensitizing recruits, and, how the increasing violence in our society is due to the same methods of removing taboos....movies, TV programs, and video games that reduce violence to sport and make the "enemy" less than human.

    It is an interesting book, and I would give it 4 stars out of 5, only because he concludes at the end that the easy availability of guns in our society is also a contributing factor to climbing violence rates. I simply disagree with that conclusion (but, hey...I'm not a psychologist ).

    This book will provide an interesting counterpoint to those who believe it would be easy to "pull the trigger" on a bad guy.
    "I surrounded 'em"- Alvin York

    "They're ain't many troubles that a man can't fix with seven hundred dollars and a thirty ought six"- Jeff Cooper


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    Former Member Array The Tourist's Avatar
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    TA,

    I would agree with most of your thinking. In fact, a bad science fiction movie starring Kurt Russell deals with just this issue; that is desensitize soldiers to efficiently kill. In fact, these soldiers can do little else when they retire.

    My opinion was formed in college. Several young boys--goof offs, sports nuts and slackers--flunked out early, but then returned as juniors on the GI Bill. I recognized one of them walking to class, and I was happy to see him again in one piece, and I welcomed him back.

    He was not the same guy.

    Oh, some of the stuff was 'positive,' in a sense. He was no longer a slacker and he appeared serious about graduation. However, he was no longer interested in a beer at the student union and a frisbee. He was a mess of fear, jumpy nerves, embarrassment, paranoia and other facets we now understand as PTSD.

    This type of individual, and my friends like him, were not poster child soldiers. They simply lost their student deferment. They had no talent for the lifestyle and expectations of military life. They were Boy Scouts who suddenly found themselves in Ranger School. Our present system would have weeded these guys out in a heartbeat, but then, these guys would never have been part of a volunteer army.

    I'm sure many of you feel, heck, that's the price you pay to live in a free society. I agree that some type of service system, like that in Israel, should be adopted. But let's get the right guys for the right job. Or I can prove the point more in depth by dropping your keester in the middle of Harlem at 200AM and see what shape you're in when, and if, you come out.

    These are our children. When we spend millions to send them out for several months, let's take a few pennies and a couple of minutes when they come back. This experience opened my eyes.

  3. #3
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    Col. Grossman conducted many interviews with returned veterans of several wars, and PTSD was much more apparent in the Vietnam vets than the WWII and Korean vets...not only because of the difference in desensitivity training (think Marines running in boot camp chanting "kill, kill, kill" like in the movie Full Metal Jacket), but more importantly, the way they returned to society after the conflict...did they receive a parade and the thanks of thier fellow citizens, or were they spit upon and shunned.

    But the point this book makes as it relates to this CCW forum is this: it is a completely unnatural reaction in people to have the ability to kill, and the closer the contact distance is, the harder it becomes. It is probably more difficult to kill another soldier ("hey, he's another kid just like me, just wearing a different uniform") than killing a scumbag trying to rob or assault me....but it's all theory to me as I have no practical experience in either.
    "I surrounded 'em"- Alvin York

    "They're ain't many troubles that a man can't fix with seven hundred dollars and a thirty ought six"- Jeff Cooper

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    Team & Tourist ~ Good Thread - Good Reply.

    Well, I'll rate your thread with a lot of stars since you and Tourist make some valid and important points.

    You Said:
    "It is an interesting book, and I would give it 4 stars out of 5, only because he concludes at the end that the easy availability of guns in our society is also a contributing factor to climbing violence rates.
    I simply disagree with that conclusion (but, hey...I'm not a psychologist)"

    Actually even the dumbest of human beings is usually "wise" enough to figure out that when the "job" is to take a life then the gun "as a tool" is usually the most effective and practical way of doing that.
    In that respect the "easier availability" of firearms probably makes the selection of "the gun as the tool" a more commonly used device for ending life. The firearm really does not contribute to an escalating societal VIOLENCE rate. Actually..."The Act Of Shooting" AKA just pulling the trigger and walking/running/driving away is likely LESS VIOLENT of an "act" (for the perpetrator) than beating a person to death with a baseball bat or administering multiple slash and stab knife wounds.
    The use of the bat and the knife and any other weapon/tool would be far more common if there were no guns. The firearm also makes it easier for some females to kill since requires less muscular strength.
    Maybe...the gun contributes to a higher overall DEATH rate because it usually inflicts/causes much more bodily damage than the flimsy steak knife in the kitchen drawer.
    It probably also makes killing "far less personal" than the garrote since it allows some degree of comfortable distance between the shooter and the intended victim.
    But, then back to the "Honest To God" truth...it is the human being that ultimately makes the decision to kill.
    In addition...the Bad Guys DO WANT the gun because the gun as "The Ultimate Portable Killing Machine" has always been so glorified in every society since firearms were invented just like in the USA today.
    Before the gun...it was The razor sharp SWORD or The Bow And Arrow and before that The Spear (or pick one) that was so very treasured and coveted as the ultimate "Take A Life" machine.
    Human beings have been killing other human beings ever since human beings have been invented.
    As a general population of collective humans the VAST MAJORITY of Individual Modern Americans are probably far less inclined to KILL and harder to be provoked to kill...than any other past "Powerful Great Society"...even the British who are "So Much More Refined" these days than "we" lowly, "Crude Americans" have historically certainly done more than their "fair share" of annihilation, domination, subjugation, and wanton slaughter.

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    Also...as with every great society we have a certain percentage of assorted people that LACK "The Still Small Voice" that would normally tell them that unnecessary killing and violence is wrong.
    Killing, stealing, fighting ~ addictive drug use & other "thug" activity is the way that they have been environmentally ingrained to solve their individual and collective (AKA gangs) life problems.
    It's a sad fact of "civilized" life.
    And that is why the Good Guys always will need their defensive STOPPING MACHINES too.
    Liberty Over Tyranny Μολὼν λαβέ

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    QKShooter, you are correct...it would take a LOT more resolve to kill someone with a sword or club in hand-to-hand combat than to use a firearm. Colt's "great equalizer" motto is right on.
    Guns have made the mechanical act of killing easier....does the psychological part come easier in a desensitized society? Have drugs and celebrated violence in our entertainment media created the Columbines of our world?

    And, more importantly for me, would I (as a CCW holder) be able to put aside instinct and aversion to killing a fellow human being if the chips were down? Many people in wartime have not been able to do just that, and they have had the finest, most expensive training available.
    "I surrounded 'em"- Alvin York

    "They're ain't many troubles that a man can't fix with seven hundred dollars and a thirty ought six"- Jeff Cooper

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    VIP Member Array Bud White's Avatar
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    Excellent thread some very good points

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    While I certainly don't think it would be easy to get over the act of killing someone, I think it would be easier in a CCW situation. A BG presented you with a personal threat because he is a BG. You reacted to that threat by killing him. In a war, you are essentially killing because someone has told you to. It's not as personal as a CCW situation. Sure, the enemy was threatening your life, but only because you are his enemy. In different circumstances you might actually find you and your enemy have a lot in common. You and a BG in a street situation is quite a bit different. One thing for sure, it's not going to be an easy thing to get over if you must kill someone.
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    I read this book about two years ago and was very impressed with it. HOWEVER, later I got some input from a FTF source that I trust, that the book was based largely on writings by a guy named Marshall (it wasn't Evan Marshall, but I can't remember who it was, but the name is mentioned in the book). The problem seems to be the findings of the original stats, etc. in the Marshall work is quite questionable.

    There have been serious questions raised both about the statistics, i.e. number of shots fired, etc., the conclusions, the reasoning, and the lack of any corroborated method(s) of the original material.

    I have also read that some of the "facts" in "On Killing" have been openly challenged. Of course I'm not sure what that proves as just about everything is challenged these days.

    Anyway, thought this might worth considering.

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    I found Grossman's writings to be quite awful and full of inaccuracies. Many of his statistics are based on SLA Marshall, a self-admitted fraud. His views on instincts against killing are pretty much laughable, and can be refuted by reading primatology, history, anthropology, evolutionary psychology, etc.

    From what I understand, if he runs across someone who has had to kill someone in the line of duty and the man claims to not feel remorse, Grossman writes him off as a sociopath.

    http://www.warriortalk.com/showthread.php?t=1634

    http://www.theppsc.org/Grossman/Main-R.htm

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    I read the first reference - wow!

    Now I read most of the second reference and it is even wower.

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    New Member Array Anymouse's Avatar
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    I just finished reading Grossman's book On Killing. Like Grossman, I am a virgin - I have never killed anyone, and I have not been in combat. I, too have read a lot of books and talked with a fair number of people. But I have not written a book about other folks' willingness or unwillingness to kill, since I can't even speak with authority about my own.

    If you want to learn about the experience of sex, do not go to a priest. If you want to learn about the experience of killing, do not come to me or Dave Grossman.

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    Member Array grnzbra's Avatar
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    Does anyone know of any place where...

    ...Grossman has answered his critics?

    This was discussed on the website for professional LEO firearms intructors, of which Grossman is listed as a member. One would think that if a person believed in his message, he would want to answer criticism, and since it is a members (of the organization) only forum, one would think that answering would not be too much of a problem. If his message is correct, it is too important to be out there "under a cloud". Therefore, I have to conclude that it should be taken with a grain of salt.

    That having been said, he has more to say than just "people don't really want to kill each other". For example, he says that murder rates over time are skewed by medical advances over time and to get a true measure of violence, one must look at the rate of agravated assault.

    He seems to like to blame television for violence increases, and mentions a comparison of two Alaskan towns, one with and one without TV, and the violence that occurred some number of years after TV introduction (timed with the maturing of a generation)

    It's just too bad that the message that everyone associates with him is so much in question that the whole thing becomes questionable.
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    Question

    I first read the book several years ago, when Grossman gave me a copy.

    Some of what he wrote is dead on IMO, but a lot is waaay off.

    Remember too, he is not a combat veteran.

    I think his research in regard to kids is valid.

    The information concerning 'crew served weapons' meets with my experience.

    The rest???
    Last edited by KC135; September 20th, 2005 at 08:00 PM. Reason: spelling
    Keep the shotgun handy!!

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    LTC Grossman based his work on research by SLA Marshal, it has largely been refuted... and SLA Marshal admited that he made up most of his research.

    I can also tell you from firsthand experience that, with regard to US Soliers at least, getting them to shoot is not the problem... if anything we shoot too quickly and engage the target with too many rounds. Accuracy is also often iffy.

    But willingness to pull the trigger is NOT an issue for the most part.
    "I am a Soldier. I fight where I am told, and I win where I fight." GEN George S. Patton, Jr.

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