Myth 1: Gun Control Laws Do Not Work

November 16, 2017

The reality is that gun control laws do work to significantly reduce mass shootings, accidental shootings and suicides. (In my world reality is defined by demonstrable reproducible facts.) Australia is probably the most recent source of data on the issue. Canada, Great Britain and other industrialized countries have had long histories of severely restricting gun ownership, and their rates of gun-related murders were a fraction of those in the U.S.

Relaxing gun ownership laws in countries like Great Britain and Scandinavian countries has led to an increase of gun-related murders and (in the case of Norway) the first documented mass shootings in their history. On the other hand, Australia is an example of a country where gun ownership was widely accepted. After a couple of mass murders, Australia implemented strict gun control laws. The result has been the virtual elimination of mass murders in Australia, whereas in the U.S. we average 1 mass shooting a day.

Total restriction of guns logically would have to reduce gun-related violence. Gun violence apologists argue that if we took away guns from law abiding citizens then only bad guys would have guns. They forget about law enforcement, but there is a point to be taken from that argument. Criminals will ty to get access to guns and use them. However, the vast majority of criminals who use guns in the commission of a crime such as robbery rarely fire their weapon, and most people who are violently murdered are not killed by robbery, they are killed by someone they know, usually a family member (the only significant exception to this tendency is gang related violence, with criminal gangs murdering each other).

People who use guns in the commission of murder, probably would use another weapon if access to guns were not so easy. Most murders are “crimes of passion” and access to a gun just makes their action easier and more likely fatal. In fact, this notion is also applicable to suicides where the act is more often impulsive. It has been proven that access to guns increases suicide rates. Without easy access to a gun, suicide rates, accidental fatalities, and murder rates go down. Your odds of surviving a knife attack, or physical attack are much greater. The likelihood of a mass murder (defined by law enforcement as three or more deaths from a single incident) are nominal.

The problem is not just a problem of violence, or of a violent culture in America. Other industrialized Western countries have roughly the same rates of violence, and the incidence of attempted murder would be about the same. Our society is not much more violent than other countries. The number of violent attacks, even attempted murder, are about the same in most industrialized Western countries, yet the murder rate in the U.S. is far above any other country. It is not so much a problem of violence as it is of easy access to lethal weapons. Arming more people has the effect of increasing the murder rate, not preventing it. It is small consolation to those murdered in that church that someone stopped the shooter after they were all dead. Is there any doubt that if the murderer walked into that church armed with a knife, then less people would have been killed?

Granted, the idea of implementing Australian type gun control laws here is unreasonable. It is unreasonable because the culture of guns is woven into the fabric of our country, and the right to bear arms is a Constitutional right. How necessary is that right to bear arms in 2017 compared to 1778, and what did the Founding Fathers intend by codifying this right into the Constitution? What restrictions, if any, did they intend to allow on this right?  Let’s talk about that in the next blog…

Thoughts and Prayers: Reality and Myths

November 15, 2017

The depressing news of yet another mass shooting in Texas (the 301st mass shooting this year alone), produced the usual reactions from both sides of the issue. On one side is a desperate plea from law enforcement, activists and ordinary citizens to do something, anything, to control the proliferation and use of guns. From the other side are activists who argue that guns don’t kill people, evil people kill people and we need more guns to protect the good guys. In this case, a “good guy” with a gun was able to stop the “bad guy” with a gun — after the carnage, which some consider a validation of their argument. That argument… in fact every argument against gun control defies facts and logic, but it hardly matters because it does not overcome the pro-gun lobby money and appeals to emotion that prevents Congress from doing anything.

Especially galling was the response of our current leadership. Paul Ryan told us that prayers really do work, oblivious to how stupid that sounds when referring to a mass murder in a church during prayer service. Trump argued that this was a mental health issue, not a gun issue, which apart from the obvious irony of him mentioning mental illness, is also just as ludicrous. Others argue that if current laws were enforced then the murderer wouldn’t have had guns. Every nation has mental health problems in nearly equal measure, but only one has a problem with regular mass murders using guns.

In other words, the same stuff from the same people, with a slight pretense of empathy.

What is needed is moral leadership in Congress. The gun culture in America is too ingrained to change significantly, and any effort to stop mass murders, children accidently killing themselves or others and lowering the suicide rate through gun control laws may seem to be doomed. Maybe if more people knew facts they would be less swayed by fear. Too many Americans who own guns are sub-cortical when the issue of gun control is discussed. They hear “reasonable, common sense measures to reduce gun violence” as a threat by government to confiscate all guns. Fear is the underlying cancer behind most of our cultural and political ills, and guns are seen by those who own them as a solution for the fear of those others who own guns. It’s insane. Most people know it’s insane, but there is a lot of money to made through fear. Right now, the fear of being a victim of a mass shooting will prompt the typical flurry of discussion in the media, and the predictable response to every mass shooting is an uptake of gun purchases.

Knowledge is a salve for fear, so I plan on taking the next week to blog on facts and logic on the issue, in the hope that anyone reading the blog will be equipped and motivated to do something to stop this maddening cycle of slaughter, outrage and inaction. Here are the most common myths:

  • Gun Control Laws Do Not Work
  • The Right to Bear Arms Was Not to Be Restricted
  • Enforcing Existing Laws Would Solve the Problem of Mass Murders with Guns

What Terror?

November 7, 2017

The terror attack in New York City was a terrible tragedy for the people killed and their families. It was not the first terrorist attack during the reign of the Twitter twit, nor will it likely be the last. The response to the attack by people of NYC were illustrative and revelatory. Contrast the response to a terror attack in NYC by President Bush and Trump. Bush united Americans in the struggle against the enemy and defended Muslim Americans. When Bush said a united America would be calling on Terrorists, Al Qaeda fled for the caves in Tora Bora. Say what you could about Bush allowing the neo-cons to hijack his triumph with the war in Iraq, but he displayed real leadership in the moments after 9/11. Trump identified immigrants and Democrats as the enemy, further dividing Americans and terrorists were probably encouraged that their attack would further weaken America by dividing it.

As shameful as Trump’s response was to the attack, the response of New Yorkers was a revelation worth dwelling on. They carried on with Halloween festivities as if nothing happened. Or even better, they carried on in defiance of what happened. It was America at its best, even as Trump displayed himself as America at its worst. Terrorism works only when people and governments are terrorized and respond out of fear. When the people of France suffered devastating attacks this past year their response was similar – they took to the streets in open defiance of fear. In NYC there were no Tiki torch marches on Mosques, or expressions of division and distrust. There were families trick-or-treating and more than a few extra adults taking to the streets to display defiance (not fear). That is the social solution to terrorism. If only we could find the political leadership to reflect the better angels of the American character.