Monday, January 17, 2011

20 Mass Shootings a Year

I went to China a few years ago, and as we drove from the airport to the hotel we passed through a seedy-looking neighborhood. People were standing on street corners, the buildings were dirty, and I asked my translator if it was safe to go there. "It's safe," he said. "There are no guns here. You want to watch for pickpockets, but guns are against the law."

Many of us grew up in a world that believed that "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns," and it had never occurred to me that you could really have a situation where the outlaws did not in fact have guns, because they were outlawed. It is a constant force in American life, we know that at any moment somebody can pull out a gun. Cut somebody off in traffic and they might shoot you, bump into someone accidentally on the street and it might cost you your life. You don't worry that they will punch you or tackle you or even stab you though that might happen, too, you worry that they will shoot you.

USA Today had a piece recently that looked into the situation a bit. The story contained this interesting paragraph:
Notwithstanding changes over the years in regulations pertaining to background checks for gun purchasers, the temporary requirement for waiting periods, the passage and subsequence expiration of the assault weapons ban, and the spread of concealed carry laws, the number of mass shootings in the United States — averaging 20 per year — has remained relatively stable over decades. Mass shootings are a fact of American life

Arizona has some of the most liberal gun laws in the country. It's easier to understand if you live there. The desert is a wide open place, there are millions of acres of land where you can fire a gun and nobody will be hurt. There's lots of hunting, and yes it is the land of cowboys and Western justice, when you live on a ranch miles from your nearest neighbor you are responsible for your own protection. The people in the cities, Phoenix and Tucson, don't have quite that justification, but the attitude is pervasive from Tucson to Tucumcari and throughout the Southwest.

I have sat with earnest European professors who have asked me, seriously, why do Americans shoot each other so much? And I have tried to explain to them about the Second Amendment and the fact that no matter what you think makes sense, Americans are not going to give up their right to bear arms. They cannot understand it, it is a uniquely American tradition that makes no sense unless you accept the perhaps paranoiac vision of tyrannical government coming into your neighborhood to attack your home and family. And that vision disintegrates under scrutiny -- why would the government come into your neighborhood? It goes back to the day when colonists were forced to house British soldiers, but, really, that's not going to happen now. We love our guns because we love our guns, it has become circular and there is no way for the Ouroboros to swallow its own tail and no way to make it spit it out.
Although gun proponents are correct when they contend that firearms are not to blame for the behavior of mass killers, guns do make their attacks far bloodier. The availability of high-powered, rapid-fire weapons is surely a large part of the reason why the death tolls in mass murders have been so large in the recent past. Three-quarters of the deadliest mass murders in the United States have occurred since 1980, most of which involved firearms as the exclusive or primary weapon.

You might not have caught this little aside by Rachel Maddow on her January 11th show:
Laws about guns are one of the few things in the world that is ungoogleable. And all the things that all of us who work on the show research all day long, every day, in all of the days that we work on this show, there is a tiny handful of topics you can't do your research about on google. All the other ones are about something related to sex, or something that might seem like it might be related to sex when you type it into the google search engine.

But laws about guns, that is the one thing that has nothing to do about sex that you can't get any useful information about by googling, because the gun lobby so completely dominates the debate. You have to do your own independent research about this in the library and books. You will not find trustworthy, unbiased information about this online, I'm telling you.

But in 2004 when the assault weapons ban was allowed to expire, one of the things that expired with it was a ban on high-capacity magazines for handguns. It is a dog bites man story. It is behind a political cliche to note how powerful the gun lobby is in america. How much they dominate what's even allowed to be debated about guns. Transcript

So powerful they can tell Google to hide the information about how dangerous guns are.

The country needs to have an honest debate about gun safety. You will never take away the people's right to own guns for self-protection and for hunting, but every thinking person understands that the world is not safer when a random self-selected subset of the population is carrying firearms.


Anonymous Robert said...

I agree with Jim: we need to have an honest debate on this topic.

January 18, 2011 6:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok, Robert

you go first

let's hear you say something honest

January 18, 2011 7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"ok, go first...let's hear you say something honest"

After which, so-called "anonymous", you will follow-up with your usual snarky, mocking, put-down, demeaning, and irrelevant remarks directed at Robert.

He doesn't need me to defend him...he does quite well on his own. However - you need to leash your insane ego and simply shut up once in a while.
Andre duPlessis

January 18, 2011 10:21 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

I'll bite.

I think it's too easy in this country for people who've demonstrated instability to buy weapons with which they can kill multiple numbers of people readily.

January 18, 2011 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so, Robert admits he bites

"I think it's too easy in this country for people who've demonstrated instability to buy weapons with which they can kill multiple numbers of people readily."

what do think we should do about that, Robert?

January 19, 2011 12:32 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

This is the point at which you share your opinion. It's called an honest discussion.

As to what we should do, I'm not sure. I know it's a problem. I would also postulate that extreme anti-gun-control positions don't help.

I know it's easier to buy a semi-automatic than to get a pilot's license. Maybe some of the thinking that goes into limiting licenses should go into limiting gun purchases.

The position that all gun purchases should be allowed under all circumstances, but that all people who are potentially unbalanced should be locked up (which anonymous espoused on an earlier thread), is so un-American and unreasonable as to be dismissed summarily.

Again, try, an honest discussion.

January 19, 2011 4:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

we can't have any discussion at all unless there is something to discuss

your wishy-washy "I don't know" is not really anything worth discussing

come up with an idea and we'll have an honest discussion about how stupid it is

January 19, 2011 7:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"come up with an idea and we'll have an honest discussion about how stupid it is"

That's a wonderful example of "the kettle calling the pot black", "Anonymous".
But then, you have an amazing propensity for relying on dishonest blather in your posts, so we all know where you are coming from.

January 19, 2011 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

not calling anybody anything

I'm simply pointing out that we can't have a discussion without a topic

bring up an idea and I'll be glad to show you where you're wrong

Robert can do it if he tries

January 19, 2011 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Anonymous again demonstrates the meaning of the term "internet troll."

See the thread above where he tries to bait David, and fails to engage in honest discussion.

I tried, and was burned.

January 20, 2011 5:31 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

I think, anonymous dear, what you want is a debate, some sort of forensics competition, with tactics, points scored, verbal jousting, etc.

What Jim was proposing was a discussion, which is an essentially cooperative activity with ideas exchanged, common conclusions reached, etc.

They're different things. I hate to tell you, but most people here I don't think want to play the same game you want. I don't.

If anyone wants to engage in discussion on this topic, I'm up for it, I think it's important.

January 20, 2011 5:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robert, Robert, don't you feel like a dork?

when we will get some kind of idea from you concerning what we should do about random violence from nuts?

don't be afraid to be wrong

let's have out with it

you do a lot of whining but have yet to make a constructive suggestion

January 20, 2011 12:43 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Name-calling is not discussion. Not even a debate. It's simply childish.

Is that an idea you can wrap your mind around?

Darling, sometimes I get the feeling you don't like me. I'm really a sweetheart of a man.

January 20, 2011 1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robert, you whine if I ask if you feel like a dork (and, techincally, that's not calling you a name) but are quite pleased to call me a troll

do you feel like a hypocrite? (just asking)

I think you're probably an OK guy, but this whole whining about being called a name is unmanly

actually, this is a characteristic that commonly distinguishes gays from straights

a common form of friendly communication among straights is insultive banter

it's a harmless game

gays never seem to understand it and always seem in a tiff whenever they are engaged in such an exchange

get over yourself

you could even try coming up with an idea to solve your complaint about nuts with guns

what do you think we should do about it?

or will you be silent because you're afraid someone will call you something?

or are you afraid it will be discovered that you have stupid ideas?

take a chance

January 20, 2011 5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robert is so flustered, he can't speak

January 20, 2011 9:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


January 20, 2011 9:21 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Honey, where do you come up with this stuff? Have you ever met gay people?

Actually I do feel sort of hypocritical calling you a troll. Sometimes you seem to actually interact appropriately with people. But you do seem to see this sight as a place where you get away with putting down queer people with impunity. Whatever makes you happy (De gustibus non disputandum est).

I'm not so much a dork as a geek. for example, see joke below:

Why do fish perish when Latin goes bad?

Because Carp Die.

See what I mean?

The topic of gun purchases is important. It's a shame you squelched discussion.

January 21, 2011 12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a geek too, Robert.

And who squelched any discussion?

You won't tell us what you think should be done.

Once you do, I'd be happy to discuss it.

January 21, 2011 2:42 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Geeks rule.

There's an ongoing debate at my school between another faculty sponsor and me about whose club is geekier: his gaming club or my Latin competition team.

I think we win hands down (vincimus manus de).

January 22, 2011 8:39 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

You missed the (I suppose too subtle) implications of what I was saying (perhaps I said some of it on another thread).

A suggestions is that we have the same sort of medical record checks and psychiatric examinations for gun purchses that we have for pilot's licenses. I think the burden should be on people who want to buy weapons to prove that they are sane enough to handle them.

Again, this is a nascent idea and a starting point for discussion.

In discussions, people exchange ideas and develop them. In debates, people state opinions and try to score points off of one another. In banter, friends exaggerate one another's faults in a teasing way. In verbal exchanges, people say insulting things to people they don't like.

Jim suggested a discussion. That's what I'm up for. I have little interest in the game of forensics, I think it's silly in this context.

January 22, 2011 8:46 AM  

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