Intimate Conversations with America’s Change-Makers

Burn the Boats is an award-winning podcast featuring intimate conversations with change-makers from every walk of life. Host Ken Harbaugh interviews politicians, authors, activists, and others about the most important issues of our time.

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Spotify

Dr. Dan Barkhuff: Toxic Masculinity and Gun Culture

| S:1 E:110
Dr. Dan Barkhuff: Toxic Masculinity and Gun Culture

Former Navy SEAL and founder of Veterans for Responsible Leadership Dr. Dan Barkhuff discusses the relationship between toxic masculinity and gun culture.

Dan is a former Navy SEAL with multiple combat deployments. After returning home, he attended Harvard Medical School and became an Emergency Medicine doctor at the University of Vermont.

Dan is a conservative, but was appalled by Trump’s comments and messages during the 2016 election. Dan did not vote for Trump in that election, but decided to give him a chance. After a year of the Trump Presidency, Dan said Trump was “worse than I thought he would be—and I thought he was going to be terrible.” In response, Dan created Veterans for Responsible Leadership, an organization that is dedicated to holding public officials accountable and helping to defeat candidates like Trump.

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

What I see as the greatest threat to the Republic as we know it, to American democracy, is the undermining of institutions and the cynicism that so much of the populace feels.

Ken Harbaugh:

I'm Ken Harbaugh, this is Burn the Boats, a show about making tough calls in tough times. America today faces a critical test, our democracy is under threat, but good people are rising to the challenge. Now, is the time to go all in, now we burn the boats.

My guest today is Dan Barkhuff, a former Navy SEAL, who now serves as an emergency medicine physician. He's also the founder of Veterans for Responsible Leadership, an organization dedicated to empowering veteran voices to hold political leaders accountable.

The organization began as a response to then, President Trump's abuse of power, and ever since, Dan has been a leading voice in calling out such abuses wherever he finds them.

Dan, welcome to Burn the Boats

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

Thanks, Ken. Happy to be here, man, this will be fun.

Ken Harbaugh:

I probably should have mentioned that you and I have a history fighting alongside each other, calling out the frauds in our community, the veteran community wherever we see them.

I'm also on the board of VFRL, and we're both dads, we like to commiserate about the challenges and the joys of fatherhood. I understand you were on duty this morning getting your kids out through an ice storm, how'd it go?

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

We got about an eighth of an inch of ice, so it was one of those — and it's now changing over to snow. So, this podcast is about climate change, right? That's what we're talking about?

Ken Harbaugh:

It can be about whatever you want, but I got to rest on your credibility a bit as a Navy SEAL, knocking down doors in Iraq, did ever you imagine back then that you would be shuffling kids through ice storms and being a political activist on the side?

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

I don't think any of us figured what middle-aged would have in store for us.

Ken Harbaugh:

No, I certainly didn't. What made you go the medical school route after being on the front lines as a Navy SEAL?

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

It's a good question. So, the short answer is I was mad at the Navy and wanted to get out and do something completely different. And in hindsight, I shouldn't have been mad at the Navy, but it had to do with orders and things like that.

And I was like, “Well, I'm going to get out and do something totally different.” And I was young and single at the time, and medicine had always been something I'd sort of been interested in. The medical community, I thought, and I think I was right about in general, a lot of the same stuff that I enjoyed about the military can be found in medicine.

Obviously, the mission is entirely different, but the people that you surround yourself with in both environments is really similar in a lot of ways.

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

You're doing a “mission,” you are working together, you're surrounded by people who want to be there, who've self-selected to be there. No one becomes a trauma nurse by accident, it's something that you get to.

That sense of teamwork, that sense of kind of belonging, and for me as a physician, a little bit of that sense of leadership was present in both communities, and so that's what I thought I would find, and what I ended up finding.

Ken Harbaugh:

You've extended that mission-oriented citing to the political arena. What was the prompt for VFRL? Was there a moment when you said to yourself, “We've got to stand up, we've got to organize, because this Commander-in-Chief, President Trump, is betraying all the values that we swore to uphold?”

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

Yeah, but you know what's crazy, Ken, is when I look back on it, the moment that I was like, “I got to get up off the couch,” seemed so trivial at this point after all that happened. Because VFRL was from 2017, and the thing that inspired me to rally some folks and start working on this, was the original Michael Flynn stuff.

Lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia and lying to the then, Vice President Mike Pence, and Michael Flynn even more so than Trump was kind of the thing where I was like, we got to do something.”

I'd always been anti-Trump. When VFLR started, I had two daughters, and “Grab them by the pussy” was fresh in my mind. But really looking back on it, I've said this before, maybe even on your podcast, I thought Trump was going to be terrible, but he vastly exceeded the terribleness that I thought he would brand.

Ken Harbaugh:

Why is it important that veterans in particular organize and speak up even today after the defeat of Trump in 2020?

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

There's a whole lot in there to unpack. So, veterans in the military in general are a respected institution. If you look at public opinion polling, veterans are the second most respected organization behind small business owners.

And way down at the bottom is Congress, and so they bring a credibility to anything that they attach themselves to. And I saw a lot of veterans attaching themselves to Trump.

There were people who I respected, aside from Michael Flynn, who were willing to go in and serve, people like James Mattis, people like H.R. McMaster who went in, and I get the argument that some of them made at the time, like, “Hey, I'm going to be the adult in the room, they're asking me to be the national security advisor, it's better me than somebody else.”

But many veterans were also, openly campaigning for this guy. And it seemed one-sided at the time, and there weren't a lot of voices in the veteran community who were willing to speak out. The military tends to skew conservative in general, and there's different variants amongst different parts of the military.

So, Marine Corps enlisted folks were the most likely to vote for Trump. Air Force officers and Naval officers were the least likely to vote for Trump, but it was relatively close. So, there were people speaking out in favor of him being elected, there were seals speaking out in favor of him being elected.

You got Marcus Luttrell speaking at a convention, you've got Dan Crenshaw speaking at a convention. And I was like, “Hold on a second, the guys I know don't feel this way, I don't feel this way.” And so, there was a one-sided narrative, and VFRL was an attempt to push back on that.

Ken Harbaugh:

As much credibility as veterans still do retain in this country, you and I are both vets who have deep misgivings about the lionization of vets.

And I'm actually quoting you from one of your recent Resolute Square articles, you wrote, “The lionization of military service, the military aesthetic, and military weapons in the vacuum of civilian online existence is the most salient threat to the Republic since the Civil War.” That's a pretty bold statement.

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

And I think it's true, and I think it holds up. So, what I see as the greatest threat to the Republic, as we know it, to American democracy, is the undermining of institutions and the cynicism that so much of the populist feels.

How did Trump get elected? It was like drain the swamp. People view politics and politicians very, very negatively. And so, that what we're just talking about, this credibility that veterans give, using that, weaponizing that — that got weaponized by MAGA and there said, “Hey, look, we're the good guys.”

And that's a thread that you see in all fascist and neo-fascist movements throughout history. I mean, Mussolini did the same thing, the Nazis did the same thing. These are known playbooks, this is right out of an authoritarian playbook, which is everything Marshall is to be lauded.

It's the opposite sort of this individualism and this conversational democracy that we have in America and have had for 200 years. And so, when we put people who served on a pedestal, and we say that, “Hey, whatever this guy says is grace,” you get people like Michael Flynn as a national security advisor.

He just rode into a very important position based on credibility, which was essentially not there. And so, when I talk more about the lionization of military aesthetic, the military service, but without the safeguards that the military provides. Like we live in a society now where I can drive (I live in Vermont, so it's about a 20-minute drive) 20 minutes, walk into a store, walk out with an AR-15 with a high cap mag H-Gear.

I can get basically cammies, I probably can pick up body armor within an hour of here, I can totally outfit myself just like I was about to kick in doors in Felicia minus an encrypted radio, That's probably the only thing I can't get.

And when we have that without a commander in charge of me, a tasking commander, just sort of telling people where to go without a senior enlisted saying, “Hey, this is a good idea, this is fucked up.” And we just leave our decision making, our influences to what we see on various chat rooms or Facebook, I mean, that's a recipe for disaster.

Ken Harbaugh:

And the ability to do that isn't just available, it's not just accessible, people are doing it. Gun sales have gone through the roof, more guns were sold last year than ever before. More guns will probably be sold this year than last year.

And you have tied that to this idea of twisted masculinity and the politicization of fear. It's interesting that you bring up Mussolini because we just had Ruth Ben-Ghiat on the show who talked about the use of virility and masculinity in far-right movements to drive people, mostly young men, into the arms of these neofascist and fascist movements.

I think you bring special credibility to this conversation as a Navy SEAL, but can you talk about real men? Because you wrote this incredible essay for Resolute Square about the perversion of this idea of masculinity that real men are supposed to make those around them afraid.

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

Yeah, young boys transitioning to adulthood — I was this way, growing up, I wanted to be like my dad, I wanted to be a man. I wanted to chop wood with a maul, paint the house, drive a car, whatever it is, the stuff that little boys see men doing.

And so, I ascribe to that, and that doesn't go away as you move into kind of later adolescents where all of a sudden, your dad's like the biggest dork ever, and you're like, “Oh, I don't want to wear those jeans, like I look like my dad.” But you still want to be a man in society, and that's a really timeless thing.

In native American ceremonies, there's a sweat lodge or you have to go and hunt and kill a wild animal or something like that in Western societies. We mark this transition from school to the workplace.

You get your union card and you're working in the factory alongside your uncles and your dad, and so now, that stuff, as we've transitioned to this modern economy, people are not kind of getting their masculine identity through their job, and that is a big change.

And so, I think there's this generation of folks who are looking for some tribe to belong to, to feel like a valued part of a tribe. And that's a universal human feeling that we've all had for millennia, and human survival is based on that.

You have to be valuable to the tribe, and therefore, the tribe will value you. And so, that hasn't changed, that's human nature. What has changed is we've lost this tribe economically, working for Uber Eats, well, maybe it pays the bills or whatever, it's not the same as in 1920, working with your extended family in a coal mine, it’s different.

Some of it is a lack of kind of physical danger and doing manly jobs. I use air quotes — and so, people are lost, young men are lost, and what can replace it? Well, they're buying guns and body armor.

It's identical to, when I was a kid, I used to wear the Patriots Quarterbacks Jersey. I mean a 10-year-old boy. And so, they're doing the same thing, it's not a football jersey, instead, it's body armor.

Ken Harbaugh:

Do you think the Josh Hawleys and Ted Cruzs of the world (they almost all fall on the far right of the political spectrum) are aware of their cynicism? Or are they projecting?

I just think it's funny that “the least manly politicians out there are the ones writing books about manliness, or in Cruz's case, lionizing Russian military recruiting ads while mocking American military recruiting ads.” These are not guys I would want my kids, my sons or daughters looking up to in any way.

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

I think it's disingenuous. Politicians, they're good at sniffing out what works. And so, I don't know how many downloads Josh Hawley gets, but I'd imagine he's going to keep doing it as long as he gets a fair number of it.

And so, it goes back to this sort of surge for meaning, I think. And we used to, as men have pretty clear roles. And I don't mourn the loss of that. Don't take that the wrong way. I'm not saying that it was better than or anything of the sort, but it was sort of more clearly defined.

And now, I work in a job, I love a job that I had that there's a lot of meaning that I attach to it. And it's mostly women, and folks are having a hard time with that, or finding meaning. They're trying to find meaning. The guy that I would aspire to be like as a leader would be someone like Ernest Shackleton. Who, if you've read …have you read Endurance

Ken Harbaugh:

I have that quote, I used to have it up on my wall, the request for applications to join his expedition.

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

Yeah. So, for any listener who might not know — great book, old book, Endurance, about Ernest Shackleton, who's this British explorer, he's in his early forties, trying to get to the South Pole, and his ship gets wrecked in the Antarctic ice, and they're stranded, and they're facing an Antarctic winter, which summertime up here.

And one could very easily imagine, one self-panicking in such a situation, and it's a textbook of leadership and a textbook of meaning. One of the coolest things, and I think it speaks directly to this point, is there was this one guy on the crew who was kind of cynical, and he was like, “Ah, we're all going to die, this sucks, this is a bad spot.”

And he was worried that this is the person who's going to — his morale is going to kind of poison the whole expedition, and we're going to have people who are all of a sudden, their morale is going to plummet, and that's going to lead to a bad outcome.

So, Shackleton takes the guy and was like, “Hey, you're rooming with me,” they had like two-man tents and he’s like, “You're my roommate.” And so, he basically kept an eye on him and made sure that he had something to do, he had a job to do.

He would go out in the morning and take the temperature and that sort of thing, and he made sure that this guy felt valued and felt important. And as a result, the morale of the expedition did not plummet, and in fact, they survived, they all survived this winter in Antarctica.

And it's that need for value that I think is missing from the equation, it's this need to contribute. And I think we ask too little of young men.

Ken Harbaugh:

Should we bring back the draft?

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

No. So, I love thinking about that. It's different, and the piece I wrote when we chatted about that, we went away from the draft for economic reasons, and primarily, we drafted people because they were like, “Oh, it's prohibitively expensive to pay these guys enough to go to Vietnam and hump around a rice paddy.” And same thing in World War II.

And we don't need that. We make our recruiting goals, no one would stand for a draft. I think that is an exercise in kind of intellectualizing, but the draft had an effect on the society that it served aside from just military preparedness.

So, because of a draft, you took people from all over the country and you put them together in a military unit, and they worked towards a common goal. They deployed together, they learn things about other parts of the country, other segments of society, and the shine was off of military service.

The reason you didn't have Vietnam vets parading around in old school age H-Gear with M14s in the seventies and eighties is because that doesn't fit — it's like I did that, been there, done that. I don't need to march around and sort of fantasize about violence, I know what that looks like, and we don't have that anymore.

So, a better question would be what do we ask of these young men? And they're largely all men who are coming into adulthood. Like what do we ask of them? Because I don't think the way to get the best United States of America is to ask nothing of them.

[Music Playing]

Ken Harbaugh:

Do you have an answer to that question? Is there something short of military service? Because I'm with you a hundred percent, there are mirrored reasons not to bring back the draft. But is there something which can stand in its place to create that sense of community and responsibility to something greater than oneself?

And I think most importantly, a sense of a common purpose as a country, what defines us as what we're working towards, not how different we are from each other?

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

The short answer is not now. Like not as it exists now. So, every 10 years or so, someone calls for like national service, and I don't know if that's the answer. There have been attempts in American history aside from the military to do that.

In the Great Depression, you've got like the Civil Conservation Corps and things like the Tennessee River Valley authority. We had a way of — and those were largely employment programs, but they also had a similar effect of bringing people together and giving them a purpose.

So, I don't know that the answer is a big government program. Maybe it's not. You can find meaning through a lot of different things. But a life without meaning — sorry, a life of relative privilege, a life of relative safety, a life of relative selfishness is not the answer, it makes people miserable.

Every study that's ever been done on this topic, it shows that if you don't feel valued, you feel depressed and anxious and miserable. This is a known medical fact. I'll give you a brief example that, in the emergency department, we often deal with folks who are in a mental health crisis, and there are folks who are having suicidal thoughts or maybe they had a suicide attempt or something like that.

And something I'll tell the med students or the residents, if you come into me and you say you're going to kill yourself if you don't get into your favorite college or whatever, or you don't get a car for your birthday or something like that, you're not going to kill yourself.

That's born out by evidence, that's called conditional suicidality, and it doesn't lead to suicide. If you come in, and you are a 60-year-old male who's got a firearm at home who is feeling depressed and doesn't have a family and feels alone, and feels like they're not contributing anything to anyone, you're like the most highest risk, those are the people who complete suicides.

Are people who are middle-aged and lost. And so, Sebastian Junger, a mutual friend of ours, he talks at length about this. So, it's finding value and finding meaning in service to others, whether it's, “Hey, I've got to keep it together because my grandma lives with me and she's got a bad hip and I take care of her.”

That's one way to find meaning. As much as I rip on folks like Jocko, if your meaning in life is to get a black belt and Brazilian jiujitsu, sure, go for it. If your meaning in life is, “Hey, I'm the crossing guard at a kid's elementary school, and I make sure the kids don't get hit by a bus,” everyone can contribute. It's a fallacy that no one can contribute to other people. And so, service gives people self-worth, it gives people a positive outlook.

Ken Harbaugh:

So, many of our fellow veterans though, have found that sense of value and meaning and this perverted idea of service from joining organizations like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

I bet if you talk to (and friends of ours have done this) the majority of the insurrectionists on January 6th, even the veterans among them, especially the veterans among them thought at the time, that they were the ones fighting for the Constitution.

How do you make that distinction? How do you educate people about the noble forms of service and the ones that are really being manipulated by the Ted Cruzs and Josh Hawleys of the world?

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

It's hard, it's really, really hard. I mean, this shit is baked into our DNA as a nation. What do you learn about when you learn about the American Revolution? You learn about the Sons of Liberty, and it's a big problem.

And having people who find meaning and find their purpose by literally plotting to kidnap and execute elected officials or plotting to start a civil war on the steps of the Capitol, who genuinely believe that they're doing the right thing is a tough nut to crack.

So, it's funny, I was talking to Chris Goldsmith the other day, and Chris has done kind of a lot of work sort of in this space and he's talking about, kind of was like, “How many of these people are salvageable?”

And he didn't really have a good answer, but he was like, “I mean, some.” But some of them just like to hurt people, and we all know people like that. We all know people who just like to hurt people. I've seen them everywhere in my life.

They were in elementary school, they were in high school, they were in the military, they were in the SEAL teams, I've seen it in medicine, I've seen it. Everyone can think of someone who they just want to hurt other people, they're just assholes.

And so, these neofascist movements things, like Patriot Front, things like the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters, the Proud Boys, a certain percentage of them are just assholes who like to hurt other people.

And maybe there's a few people who through literal rehabilitation could be contributing members of society, but it's pretty tough to think you're going to salvage someone who is willing to sit in the back of a U-Haul and drive 12 hours to Philadelphia to beat up black people. So, it's bananas, it's really, really hard.

Ken Harbaugh:

What's uniquely American about our population of assholes as you described them though, is the ubiquity of guns. And there's this other quote that I'm drawn to from a recent essay of yours in Resolute Square about just how cheap and easy it is to substitute the firearm for all the military experience and training that you get when you've actually been down range, actually seen what war looks like.

And, and your quote, I think it's great is this: “The military aesthetic carried an insidious component, never overtly stated, but ultimately, ready to seep out into the world. Warriors need enemies. For actual operators, these were provided as part of the deal, transnational terrorists intend on destabilizing allied governments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.”

But you have this, what feels like an entire generation of young people, mostly men who are looking for enemies to provide that sense of purpose and camaraderie.

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

This whole thing about the warrior mindset, all this stuff, which I think is a bunch of hotwash really, I'm interested in being the best citizen I can be. An aspect of that has included in my younger days being part of a military unit. The way in which you can feel manly by picking up a weapon of war has been around forever. Have you ever read the Fall of Berlin by Antony Beevor?

Ken Harbaugh:

I haven't.

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

So, it's a great book. He's this British historian, it goes through kind of the fall of Berlin in World War II, and a lot of interesting accounts from the Red Army folks, he's ultimately like storm the rag stag and stuff like this.

And there's this one Russian lieutenant who the day after the surrender, there's no more gunfire and there's two little German boys playing swords with like a wooden sword, they're just fencing and it's in our nature. And so, if you can't channel it appropriately, it's sort of deep pathology.

The people who think that all there was to being in the military was putting on some body armor, getting a cool gun, and then patrolling along a street with your friends are — it's just so far from — think of how we're like indoctrinated into the military.

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

You go to Boot camp, or you go to OCS or whatever, and it's weeks before you touch a gun at all. And then when you finally take it out of the armory, they put the fear of God into you. And you march to the range, and you get like one round and you shoot your first bullet ever. And then you have to clear and save your rifle. And there's some scary drill sergeant looking over your shoulder, like literally right behind you.

And every time you check out a weapon in the military, even in the seal teams, you check out a weapon, it's like there's somebody else there, there's two-person integrity, you're going to an organized range. Nobody like in the military checks out like a T-4 and just rolls around with it in case they need it.

It's insane to think that this is what we do in the military. It's not, it's not at all. It's not even close to what we do in the military. So, it's really just this facile worship of a weapon of war in an attempt to feel manly. And it's rooted in ignorance, and it continues to lead daily to disastrous consequences.

Ken Harbaugh:

I would argue it's rooted in insecurity as well, the idea that that carrying on AR-15 makes you a bigger or a braver person actually signals to anyone who's done that in a war zone, the exact opposite.

And it doesn't make you feel more free, you've written about this as well. If you're a responsible gun owner, well, it's a responsibility, it is a burden. Can you talk about the freedom cost of being a responsible gun owner, especially as a veteran?

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

Exactly. Even in the very kind of simplistic like day-to-day sense, carrying a gun around with you, that is what you're doing. Like if you having gun on your hip, if you're wearing a CQB sling with an AR over your shoulder, that is what you're doing.

You're not stopping to wrestle with your kid in the living room, you're not picking up groceries at the grocery store. You're carrying a weapon and that your entire being while you have that weapon on, you're looking for threats. You're like it's this mindset of, “Well, if I have a gun, then I'm good to go and if something bad happens, I'll be ready.”

And it's like well, there’re very, very rare instances where (and they're exceedingly rare) something “bad” is going to happen and you're going to stop it with a firearm, let's call it like 1/10th of 1% of the time, which is a gross over exaggeration.

Like most of the time you're going to be walking around in a peaceful population, you're going to be at the shopping mall, you're going to be at the grocery store, in your kid's little league game, and it limits you in what you can do if you know what you're doing with a firearm.

You can't take it off, you can't leave it in the car so you can just zip into the gym. There are places you literally can't go, you can't carry it in a federal office building or something like that, it's incredibly cumbersome.

Ask anyone who's been overseas, “What's the best thing about coming home?” It's like turning in the weapons at the armory, and then all of a sudden, you're free again. It's this literal lie that's been told to gun owners that having this firearm makes you free. It doesn't make you free, it makes you responsible all the time for potentially ending someone's life.

Ken Harbaugh:

Or not. The prevalence of irresponsible gun owners is born out in just the number of senseless murders from things like fender-benders and arguments in parking lots. And to me, it's as much about the mindset shift that carrying a gun forces on you as it is the additional responsibility there.

I wrote this piece a while back that included a reference to this scale of alertness, and it starts with being in the green where you're enjoying life and not worried about much. And the advice to gun owners was live in the yellow, live always wondering if that person approaching you on a sidewalk might be a threat.

And you I think articulate it better than I ever could in this quote in your piece, you talk about the power of being able to, on a moment's notice, kill your fellow citizens, demands complete and total respect at all times. It demands concentrations, it demands you view every person you see with that gun on your hip as a potential threat and that's not freedom.

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

It's not. I don't want to go to my kids' little league game, be like, “Hmm, I might have to kill all these people.” That's an insane way to live. It's not freedom, it's the opposite of freedom. It's having the top of the pyramid of your attention is carrying around a lethal weapon. It doesn't make sense to me.

Ken Harbaugh:

What do we do at this point? This is American exceptionalism run amuck. We've got 400 million guns out there now, what do you say as a Navy SEAL who's deployed to theaters of war multiple times to the people who say the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

So, first of all, just that's demonstrably untrue. If you look at FBI statistics, there were … a few years back I sat on a panel for community violence in Vermont, and we got some interesting stats from the FBI that just showed that the number of active shooter situations in which they're stopped by the good guy with the gun is tiny, less than 5%.

Most often, these mass shooters end up killing themselves. Second most often as they're killed by the police. And way, way, way down the list is in fact, I think it's like single digits that an active shooter has been taken down by another citizen with a firearm.

Ken Harbaugh:

And the cost of that, of course, is so many guns out there carried by people who think they're going to be the hero end up killing innocent people.

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

Right. And it plays into this like American fantasy — well, I can only speak for America because we are American. But think of how much of our, sort of … the canon of our work is related to justifiable violence.

You've got Liam Neeson who's like 900-years-old, and every six months he releases a new movie where his daughter gets kidnapped and it's like gross is 200 million at the box office. And we have this sort of, I mean, it's a fantasy, this fantasy of justified violence.

So, as American as apple pie is that someone's going to do something bad and I'm going to be able to do something violent and harmful to this person. And I don't know if that exists in other countries or if it's kind of unique to us, but it's undoubtedly kind of part of our canon of — and you see it everywhere. So, what should we do?

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

So, I think it starts with some common-sense changes. I don't think you should get a gun when you're 18. If you're going to buy a gun, I think you should be 21. Many of these people who go back and shoot up their high school are in that 18 to 21-year-old range. People make the argument that, “Oh, you can be 18 and serving in the military.” Yeah, you can’t, it's a bunch of bullshit.

You can be 18 and serve in the military where you have a sergeant who's done two tours in Iraq staring over your shoulder, making sure your chamber's emptied before you clean it. So, the argument that you're 18, you should be able to buy a gun, that doesn't hold water with me.

So, that's what I would do. For starters, I think you have to be 21 to own a firearm. Now, do we need these military weapons of war in our streets? No, we don't. If you can't ban them then — we had an assault weapons ban in this country for years.

If you can't ban them, then I think there needs to be training for them. I think we can put pressure on if we can't pass these laws, I think we can put pressure on the people selling the guns. Can you sue the — if your husband walks to a gun store buys a nine mil and blows his head off, can you sue the person who sold him that gun?

I mean, as it stands right now, you can't right, in most jurisdictions. So, I think that there's sort of low hanging fruit in this, but I think it's incumbent upon us as we go through middle aged to raise the next generation better.

I think some of it, they're figuring out on their own. If you look at Gen Z polls about guns and the generation that's most impacted by these school shootings, they feel very differently than your 55-year-old white male.

Ken Harbaugh:

I just did scholarship interviews for a pretty elite scholarship. And when I got to my second kid (I'm going to get choked up saying this), who had been affected by a mass shooting in their community, I just lost it.

You're right, a lot of it, a lot of the mess we've created, they're going to have to clean up. Last question, Dan, when are you coming back on Twitter? It's not the same there without you.

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

Twitter was … did you ever meet Mike Madrid?

Ken Harbaugh:


Dr. Dan Barkhuff

So, Mike, he's like a former, never Trump republican guy, and he tweeted … this is why I left Twitter, okay. I left Twitter because Madrid tweeted, “Hey, all you people who are staying on Twitter now that Elon took it and you're in it for the likes and you've built up this following and all this kind of stuff, you're doing the same thing the Republicans did. You're doing the same thing Josh Hawley did.”

And I was like, you know what, he's right, man. So, I'm not in a rush to get back on Twitter. I've been reading more books, Ken. So, things are good and not sun-spread but never say never, but I'm not missing Twitter right now.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, you're a better man than I, Dan Barkhuff, but I think most people know that. I did check though your video just sticking it to Trump has seven and a half million views, so it keeps ratcheting up. I think we'll post that in the show notes. It's been great talking to you.

Dr. Dan Barkhuff

Thanks, Ken. I appreciate it, man.

Ken Harbaugh:

You bet.

Thanks again to Dan for joining me. You can no longer follow him on Twitter @dbarkov.

Thanks for listening to Burn The Boats. If you have any feedback, please email the team at [email protected]. We're always looking to improve the show.

For updates and more, follow us on Twitter at team_harbaugh. And if you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to rate and review.

Burn the Boats is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. Our producer is Declan Rhors and Sean Rule-Hoffman is our audio engineer. Special thanks to Evergreen executive producers, Joan Andrews, Michael DeAloia and David Moss. I'm Ken Harbaugh and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions.

View Less

Recent Episodes

View All

Tim Alberta: Evangelical Extremism

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:160
Journalist Tim Alberta discusses his book, The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, and his personal experiences with the evangelical movement....
Listen to Tim Alberta: Evangelical Extremism

Dr. Steven Hassan: MAGA is a Cult

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:159
Dr. Hassan explains how cults indoctrinate members, and how the radical right has copied these strategies....
Listen to Dr. Steven Hassan: MAGA is a Cult

Dr. Bandy Lee: A Duty to Warn

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:158
Psychiatrist Dr. Bandy Lee discusses Trump’s mental state, and the danger he poses to the country....
Listen to Dr. Bandy Lee: A Duty to Warn

Tristan Snell: Trump’s Legal Strategy

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:157
Tristan, who prosecuted Trump as the Assistant Attorney General of New York, talks about Trump’s legal strategy, our current judicial system, and ...
Listen to Tristan Snell: Trump’s Legal Strategy