It’s about probabilities

I guess I would put the point made by my esteemed co-editor in a slightly different way.  I don’t think it’s quite accurate to say that the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary were foreseeable.  In fact, the events leading up to the massacre appear to have been quite peculiar: a young man with what appears to have been a worsening mental illness but with no criminal record; an unsuccessful attempt by that young man to buy weapons (note: CT’s gun laws worked); a number of semiautomatic weapons legally owned by the young man’s mother; the young man seizes those weapons, kills his mother with one of them, and then drives to a school which a couple of reports say he attended at one time, probably long ago, though it’s unclear for how long; and then he goes on an unfathomable shooting rampage.  What remains unanswered is why – why kill his mother, why go to that school, and why now?

But that’s exactly the point, isn’t it?  You never know what peculiar string of circumstances will come together in precisely the wrong way to lead to a horrific event like Newtown.  So what is foreseeable – and I think perhaps this is Bob’s point, if I may be so bold – is that if weapons designed to kill many people quickly and efficiently (and that’s what these weapons are) are readily available and legal for private individuals to own, then inevitably they will fall into the hands of people who really shouldn’t have them.  And when that happens, very bad things result.  It’s nearly impossible to predict exactly which person will be next to act in the way that the Newtown shooter or the guy in Tucson or Aurora did, or which school or movie theatre or mall will be next, but the easy availability of powerful weapons like those used in Newtown, Tucson, Aurora, and elsewhere makes it far more likely that something like what happened there will happen somewhere else.

In other words, this is all about probabilities.  There are a lot of people in this country, and it’s not possible to predict which one is going to be the next one to want to go on a shooting rampage, nor is there any way to determine which school, mall, theatre, or other location will be hit next.  So what we should do is take whatever steps we can to make it less likely (a) that people ever get to that stage (i.e., improve mental health services); (b) that people who do reach that stage have access to dangerous weapons (i.e., make them illegal for private ownership); and (c) that such people who somehow get a hold of a weapon can squeeze off a lot of shots in a row (i.e., ban large clips and certain types of ammunition).  I’m sure there are many more steps along these lines that could be taken.

As President Obama said last night in his superb speech (which you should watch if you haven’t already), no step we can take will guarantee that the events in Newtown or elsewhere wouldn’t have happened.  That’s certainly true of the steps I suggested.  But they would, I’m pretty confident, make such events less likely.  Indeed, the fact that CT’s gun laws prevented the Newtown shooter from buying a weapon did, in fact, make it less likely that he could do what he did.  Unfortunately, he had another option because his mother owned a lot of guns – but perhaps the next guy like him won’t have that option, and so that guy won’t be able to shoot up a school.  And, of course, if semiautomatic weapons had been illegal when the mother was gun-shopping, she wouldn’t have bought them, which would have removed that option as well, further decreasing the likelihood that Newtown could have happened at all, or that it would be as bad as it in fact was.

It’s about probabilities.  So that, it seems to me, is where we should start.

Recommended by somervilletom, stomv, jconway, soffner.


47 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. That is exactly my point: military weaponry in the population = massacres

    Recent evidence from Columbine to Connecticut is enough to convince any rational person that improvements in weapons technology have changed the tools of lethal force in wide circulation. If private ownership of weaponry like that used at Newtown continues to be permitted, there will be more massacres. It was predicted after Tuscon. It was predicted after Aurora. And now after Newtown. It’s not a probability any more than that the sun will rise tomorrow, but a certainty given time.

    As to CT’s gun laws, they did not work at all to the extent their purpose is to prevent lunatics from acquiring sophisticated weapons and using them to massacre first graders and their teachers. They were a complete failure, as the dead children testify. Military guns and ammunition is extremely effective, extremely dangerous, and should not be allowed in the general population any more than hand grenades or machine guns.

    • I couldn't find a source

      today, but a large number of gun crimes are committed by people borrowing legally-owned guns. I heard it yesterday on one of the news shows.

      Time will tell how well Mrs. Lanza locked up her guns. With a mentally ill 20 year-old, it would have been negligent not to have all the guns very well locked up. Keeping guns locked up is the law in Massachusetts. She was apparently a gun nut, however. So who knows?

      The key to winning the battle on guns is with specific proposals, not just talking about gun control. As you’re talking about, we should be banning assault weapons going forward. It will take years and years to get to the point when they’re not available.

  2. Yes, this is about probabilities.

    Talking in terms of probabilities takes away most of the arguments against gun control, including the claim that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Limiting access to weapons designed to slaughter large numbers of people will lessen the probabilities that large numbers of people will be slaughtered.

    I thought President Obama set the stage brilliantly for this argument by asking the question, ‘Are we doing all we can’ to make our country safe for our children? And then answering it in the negative. We have to do more, he continued, even if it won’t lead to a 100 percent certainty of safety.

  3. Isn't this sort of the illegal drug argument in reverse?

    Ban guns and they will still be out there and available, just not through the channels they are currently. We will need a lot of prisons to house all the people that break these new laws.

    Do we ban violent video games? TV shows? Movies? Books? If it’s about probabilities don’t we need to?

    • The dangers aren't the same

      The probability that a moron will write a comment on BMG is high, given time, but that doesn’t endanger 1st graders. Weaponry like that used to murder the children and teachers in CT, however, is a clear and present danger to everyone in the country as recent events have shown.

      • And policies that are ineffective ...

        … will not protect them.

        • Point missing

          I don’t think you get the argument about probabilities.

          The goal is not to eliminate the danger, for that is impossible and anything we do will be “ineffective” at eliminating the danger.

          The goal is to reduce the danger. Making weapons less available reduces the danger.

          • And I think the point was

            that banning the possession of a thing that is owned and used by a very large fraction–30%ish– of the population, a significant fraction of which is likely to resist the ban, and the ban can be easily evaded, and there are already 300 million of the banned item already owned, is not likely to accomplish the reduction of danger.

            After that fiasco of legislation in the 90s, I think it might be better to focus on closing the various exceptions to the need for background checks– the gun show loophole in particular, than to try to ban “types” based on vague, loose, and easily-altered cosmetic characteristics.

            Another idea might be to embrace, rather than scorn, the notion of educating owners about responsible gun ownership. This is what the NRA did, before it became a mere political lobby. This would at least be better than the most likely alternative, which is the same thing that has happened after all of the previous incidents–nothing at all. And it might actually build some of the credibility– the same way the NRA built its credibility– that might make some regulation proposals have an actual political chance in the world of reality.

            Ultimately, I don’t see how any of these proposals fly. It isn’t true that it is time to “start” having this discussion– we have been having this discussion more or less continuously since the 60s; it is just that the pro-control side has been pretty comprehensively defeated. I suppose it may be that this incident is somehow different from the many others that preceded it– each of which failed to move the political needle– but I sure don’t see any plausible explanation of why this time is different.

            • IMHO, a serious focus on ammo and clips

              could accomplish a lot of good – maybe moreso than the approach of addressing the guns themselves, which as you point out has some difficulties.

              As for the “pro-control side being comprehensively defeated,” time will tell. They surely have lost most of the recent battles, but I think there’s a lot less fear of the NRA than there used to be – they did pretty badly this cycle.

              As for “why this time is different,” it’s pretty obvious, I should think.

              • For what it's worth

                The Australian law Bob championed in a companion post mostly limited clips and ammo, as do the Canadians (who actually own as many guns per capita as we do). The other near thing is forcing manufacturers to ensure every bullet can be traced to a unique gun to deter crimes and apprehend criminals. I think they may have had some upper limit bans on assault weapons but it mostly focused on limiting who got the guns and how powerful they were rather than limiting the guns themselves.

              • Well that's the problem

                Anything that can accomodate a cartridge can accomodate a cartridge of nearly any size. So if the weapon can accomodate a cartridge with 6 rounds, it can accomodate a cartridge with 60. That means that your ban would have to be of anything other than the bolt-action single shot rifles from summer camp, which isn’t happening absent a significant shift in the national trajectory.

                As for comprehensively defeated, the 90s assault weapons ban was signed just a few months before the 94 elections, was a BIG issue outside the northeast, and played a big role in the end of the decades-long Democratic control of Congress. Gun control legislation is all but the bluest blue states had already been being rolled back for a decade or two by this point. Then the remaining Democrats abandoned the issue entirely, because it tended to cost them elections. Then the entire issue was foreclosed by a Supreme Court ruling. Not sure how much more comprehensive that could be.

                As why this time is obviously different, I’m pretty sure everyone said the same thing after Ciolumbine, and then again after Va Tech.

                I hope that you are right and that I am wrong, but I don’t think so.

                • Wrong

                  A cartridge is a round, so saying “if the weapon can accomodate a cartridge with 6 rounds, it can accomodate a cartridge with 60″ is nonsensical. Even if you were using the correct terminology, you’re wrong. The late, lamented assault-weapon ban made large-capacity magazines (the word you were looking for) illegal. Unfortunately, it allowed previously-manufactured ones to continue being sold, so lots of new ones were backdated and sold as “pre-ban.” The people doing this were breaking the law, and if caught, could have been punished, but there was apparently no enforcement effort.

                  This illustrates one method to reduce the carnage. Ban high capacity magazines – new or old. Make manufacture, sale, or possession of them illegal, with real penalties. Enforce the laws. Even if an AR-15 will accept a 30-round magazine, it’s going to be hard for Survivalist Mom to get one if they are illegal. That means her troubled child is going to have to stop killing people long enough to reload more often. Slows him down, which is a good thing. Notice that this law does not ban weapons that accept those magazines.

                  We do need to reframe the debate. Get people to recognize that bullets equal dead children.

                  • You're right

                    I meant “magazine.”

                    Thanks for the correction.

                    I remain skeptical of ban-a-particular-product approach. I do not think it will be long before you can simply print the magazine using a 3D printer. Maybe the RIAA can help with tracking the illegal computer files that would be necessary to use the printer.

                    And we have not even broached the topic of the need to regain control of the Supreme Court in order for any of this to survive a legal challenge.

                    I am depressed and pessimistic.

                    • Child porn is still limited, in spite of cheap video cameras

                      While child porn is a problem, it is not nearly so pervasive as our gun violence issue. Cheap video cameras and easy access to distribution channels have made it harder to restrict, but we do manage to do so with at least limited success. Surely we should not merely throw up our hands in despair about child porn, just because a few perverts get away with it for awhile!

                      We have found reasonable ways to set and enforce boundaries on the use of that technology that balance our individual freedoms against the risks to society of utterly unrestrained use. Surely we can do the same for weapons and, for that matter, 3D printers.

                      When our culture accomplishes a sea-change about these combat weapons (as opposed to sporting goods) and their ammunition, then I am more confident than you that our political system will adjust accordingly. If an amendment is needed, an amendment will happen.

                      The entire problem has been greatly exacerbated by the absurdly stupid Supreme Court decisions reversing long-held and reasonable interpretations of the second amendment. The court has made mistakes before, and we have corrected them. Hopefully we won’t have to fight another civil war to correct this one.

                      We will, however, correct it.

                    • Difference

                      This was why I made the comparison to booze. If, by a new enlightened policy, you criminalize a huge swath of the population for something that they don’t perceive as wrong, you will not be successful. If gun ownership were a fringe of society, a fringe is easier to marginalize. It is not a fringe.

                      To move the needle on this issue, there is going to have to be an aboslute sea change in the very culture of a huge swath of the country, such that the views of today are sustained and even strengthened over time, month after month, year after year, long after this massacre has faded from the political memory. You need enough time to win the next several presidential elections, so that the present supreme court majority can be flipped. Then you need sufficient support in the Congress– which means from rural “red” states– to get a bill passed, and to maintain that support so that it doesn’t fizzle the way the 90s ban did.

                      In order to get anything with lasting impact, there has to be so much more than a we-scrounged-up-a-majority-so-stick-this-up-your-arse bill, which will get zapped as soon as the Congress fluctuates again.

                      Diffucult. Not impossible, I suppose, but nearly so in the present political climate.

                    • I think that you're on to something here

                      and that the right way to do this is to just move the needle a bit. You’re right, even if we cobble together the votes and get it past SCOTUS, it’s short lived.

                      I think that we’re better off passing something which is small but solid — if not 3 or 4 things like that. Better screening. Closing the gun show loophole. Dealing with magazine size. Change the culture around the mentally ill and guns. Around gun storage and safety. Around military weapons in civilian’s hands.

                      That written — do you think that Congress would have zapped the assault weapons bill? After all, even after the 1994 GOP wave to power, they didn’t eliminate it… they waited for it to expire in 2004. It seems to me that while its hard to get gun regulations passed, it might be equally hard to eliminate them once passed.

                    • Response to stomv

                      I think your last paragrpah is a good point. The house voted to repeal in 1996, Clinton vowed a veto, and the Senate didn’t bother trying.

                      More supportive of your point may be that after 2000, and after 2002, there was no repeal. I suppose that makes sense; a vote for repeal could have threatened GOP reps and Senators from purple districts/states, in which the law was more popular.

                      Maybe the big lesson is, if they manage to pass anything– no sunset provisions.

                      I have tried to figure out why the 90s law had a sunset, to no avail.

            • Spoken like a Marlboro aficionado in 1975

              People are not going to tolerate having manics effectively permitted to massacre first graders, movie goers, high school and college students, co-workers, and mall goers across the country on a monthly and now weekly basis. Gun technology has changed in recent years with results that are becoming apparent to the general population. Denial of the franchise to women was far more deeply embedded in American law and culture than gun ownership is today — not to mention racial segregation during the Jim Crow era — and look where those practices are today: in the dustbin of history.

            • Embracing education

              Another idea might be to embrace, rather than scorn, the notion of educating owners about responsible gun ownership.

              It is already a requirement in MA that applicants for an FID card* have taken an approved gun-safety class. We, at least, have embraced your idea. There is no scorn for it here.

              * A Firearms Identification card (which actually identifies a person authorized to own a gun or self-defense weapon like pepper spray) is required to legally purchase or own a firearm.

              • I think you miss my point

                The government of Massachusetts is not going to build trust in the gun-owner community. I am saying that gun control advocacy groups–the same groups that lobby for the proposals listed in these threads– should make an effort to support safety education. Not as a part of a legislated regulatory scheme, but just because safety education is a good thing.

                It might also help to diffuse the mistrust that any regulation or licensing is prelude to confiscation. When the anti-abortion lobby proposes a regulation of women’s health services, abortion rights advocates reject it outright, without regard to the content of the proposal, because they know it is proposed only as an incremental step toward a ban.

                Gun regulation is viewed in almost exactly the same way. Until that dynamic is changed, then all of these proposals are idle wishing.

            • Evidence, please

              I’d like to see evidence to support your assertion that “30%ish” of the population owns assault weapons. The proposal is NOT to ban guns. The goal is to ban weapons like the Bushmaster.

              Stopping companies like “The Freedom Group” from continuing to manufacture weapons like this (except under contract to the government) is also not hard to enforce.

            • Responsible ownership.

              It appears that the shooter’s mother took her kids target shooting so they could learn how to properly handle weapons. Even though one of them had serious emotional problems that some neighbors say were apparent from around age 5.

              Yes, he could have gone into that school and killed kids with a pistol or hunting rifle, but it is very possible there would have been fewer casualties. That in itself is worth a ban to me — the possibility of saving some lives, not the dream of 100% tragedy prevention. Because I simply do not see any societal benefits in allowing citizens to own rapid-fire assault weapons and associated armor-piercing ammunition.

              As an aside, this looks like yet another horrible example of guns that someone (the shooter’s mother) thought would help keep them safe ending up responsible for their death.

    • Do we discard laws against child porn because some still exists?

      The proposal is to make combat weapons and high-capacity ammunition carriers illegal. Illegal to manufacture, sell, buy, and possess. Will some still exist on the streets, illegally? Yes. So what.

      We do it anyway. Just like we ban child pornography. Our prisons are not filled with child pornographers. We don’t ban erotic videotapes (any more), but we don’t market them to children either.

      The solution to our acute problem with mass violence requires us to find a better answer to all these issues than we have now. The first step, however, is taking combat weapons and high-capacity clips, drums and magazines off the street.

      If Nancy Lanza had not owned an arsenal of combat weapons, there is a very high probability that the dozens of children murdered by her son would still be alive. As we learn more and more about her, we learn more and more about the risks to all of us the extreme right-wing represents. Multiple reports like this one portray her as “a gun-hoarding survivalist who was stockpiling weapons in preparation for an economic collapse.”

      In short — another right-wing crazy, not so very different from the right-wing crazies that have killed so many already. A right-wing crazy who bought an arsenal manufactured by a company owned by other right-wing crazies. A right-wing crazy whose paranoia was stoked by a media hate-machine funded by right-wing crazies.

      Do we outlaw all this? Of course not. We can, however, begin by disarming them.

    • Don't compare this to the drug prohibition

      2 dudes in a barn can cook up a lot of meth then drive to another barn to do more, but Bushmaster assault weapons, 30-round magazine clips, etc. need sophisticated factories to be produced. Those can be inspected and guarded so their weapons only go to the military. The drug prohibition analogy does not hold up.

      Yes, there are already a lot of assault weapons out there, but we can slow the tide, and basic decency as a nation calls us to do so.

  4. Yes, but

    You also have to acknowledge that this is not exactly cutting edge technology.

    It isn’t that much of a change to change a weapon designed to have a small number of rounds in the magazine to one that can have a great many. Anyone with some basic machining skills and some basic equipment can do it in their basement.

    I am not sure why a prohibition of the sort envisaged here would prove any more successful than previous prohibitions against other widely available, widely possessed, popular products.

    And that is assuming that one can actually achieve the ban politically. If there were a likelihood of this kind of political shift, would it not have happened after Columbine?

    • I disagree

      I don’t see Nancy Lanza learning “basic machining skills” and acquiring “basic equipment” in her basement — especially if she faced 30 years to life for doing so. I think this far easier to restrict than you suggest.

      I don’t know why this didn’t happen after Columbine, but it didn’t. I needs to happen now.

      • I agree with Tom.

        Like I said, it’s all about probabilities. Are there some potential mass killers who also happen to possess the requisite “basic machining skills and some basic equipment” in their homes that would enable them to convert normal weapons into semiautomatic large capacity weapons? Maybe, but surely it is a smaller number than the total universe of potential mass killers. Hence, the probability of another Newtown is reduced, which over time pretty much guarantees that some lives will be saved. And, importantly, there is no countervailing social cost for changing the law in this way, other than pissing off some gun nuts. And I frankly don’t care about that, and I don’t think most Americans do either.

      • Best practices

        Our American exceptionalism sometimes blinds us to good ideas elsewhere. The UK had a mass shooting like this (tennis pro Andy Murray was a survivor) and passed a stricter gun control law and have had zero incidents. Australia has five mass causality shootings and passed a moderate form of control that regulates guns like cars and has had zero incidents since. At the end of the day there are certain kinds of guns that can only be used to kill massive numbers of people and I don’t think our framers anticipated that when passing the 2nd amendment. My cousin is a hunter and helps run the shop up in Kittery, so I support that there is a culture and livelihoods that depend on hunting. But the only game you can hunt with this are people, and oftentimes children. Time to end it. Will it be perfect CMD? No, better policing hasn’t ended crime but it has reduced it. As David points it, decreasing the likelihood of these incidents will justify the policy. Time to respond to these acts of terror like we respond to any other.

      • Not so basic

        I am not a gunsmith, but I was a machinist for many years, and the skills and equipment to convert a sporting gun to an assault weapon are not so basic. – especially not the equipment. A drill press is not going to serve; you’ll need a milling machine. Yes, there are people who have such equipment in their homes and the knowledge that would let them do the work, but they also know how many years in jail they’d earn by demonstrating that knowledge.

        All the gun-control measures are deterrents. Arguing that they didn’t or wouldn’t prevent some specific horror does not mean they aren’t worth doing. There are people who don’t wear their seat belts, and who die because of it, but the seat-belt laws have saved thousands of lives. Shall we repeal those laws because those people circumvented the laws, resulting in death?

    • Utter rubbish

      You often make wonderful comments on BMG CMD, and are a much beloved and valued participant (to me, anyway), but in this case, as a matter of technical reality, you are singularly uninformed. Contemporary military-grade weaponry like that presently in general circulation, and as a result accessible to maniacs, is neither easy to produce or simple to modify. It can be done, just like it is possible to make bombs in a home workshop, but it is not something that the vast majority of people are likely to try at home. There is, for example, to take your analogy to “other products,” no comparison between growing marijuana at home and machine milling a precision semi-automatic rifle.

      • I think CMD's information is correct,

        though maybe out of date. These conversions were a problem. Some manufacturers were making weapons that were easily converted from semi-automatic to automatic. You could buy kits for them at gun shows. Wikipedia comfirms my recollection.

        • Maybe we are both right

          These weapons can be converted, but it is not as easy as sticking a marijuana seed in a pot. I’ll modify my “utter rubbish” to “Not realistic.” :-)

          • I was thinking alcohol

            rather than marijuana, because alocohol is also widely embraced in the population, and causes significant damage.

            I watched a guy convert a semi-automatic rifle (that means that it fires one round each time the trigger is pulled) to an automatic (something actually like what the military uses– multiple rounds for one pull of the trigger, i.e, a machine gun) and back again, inside of a minute, using simple tools. At the time, I was a big supporter of the assault weapons ban. Other provisions of the law banned certain cosmetic features: the pistol grip, and other things. The guy then showed me a thing that looked to my untrained eye like the “hunting rifle” posted by somervilletom yesterday, that had a higher rate of fire than the pistol grip models, but was legal under the law.

            The only conclusion I could draw was that the law was drafted by people who did not really understand what they were doing, other than that they wanted “those guns” off the streets. The result was ineffective.

            I do think that you are over-estimating the complexity of the manufacturing. This is not a high-tech piece of equipment (though the ammunition is, and might therefore be a better target). The technology is well over a hundred years old. When I lived in Texas, I found that everyone– everyone!– was surprisingly well versed ion how the things work. It was rather like the knowledge of automobiles accumulated by a teenager who restores an old Mustang in the yard. They can disassemble a pistol or rifle into a surprisingly large pile of springs, tubes, and gizmos, can identify each part, and know what it does and how.

            In addition, I think that you underestimate how “the vast majority of people” live. They do not live as we do in the northeast. In trucking, farming, or any other industry that relies on intensive use of heavy equipment, people learn how to mend or fix parts in order to keep the equipment running, without having to wait for third party mechanics or parts to be shipped in. That is, they have and know how to use the machining tools.

            What’s more is that it is likely that a ban would have the effect of driving the development of new home-manufacturing technology. The Glock pistol– another favorite of gun nuts and bugaboo of the gun control crowd, is already made using a lot of plastic. Here is a story about a guy who is building the greater part of an AR-15– a rifle awfully similar to the one used by Lanza last week– using a 3D printer.

            In sum, I just don’t think that the bans proposed here will be, as a practical matter, effective at anything. The banned weapons will still be freely available and cheap. I guess, if you caught a guy like Lanza before his suicide, you would have some extra things to charge him with, but BFD.

            I think there will need to be another approach. I think that a demanding driver’s license type program would be beneficial. It seemed to me that knowing a lot about the weapon and how it works seemed to correlate with a healty respect for the dangers (this was the focus of the pre-political NRA). The problem for this is to make some effort to allay the concern– which must be addressed whether you agree or not, which is how societies like ours are supposed to work– that a list of licensees is prelude to confiscation.

            Targetting ammunition might also be a start, although I don’t know if anything can be accomplished, safety-wise, by restricting Type A while allowing Type B.

            • Nah, laws work

              First, If your argument was correct it would be easy to acquire, modify, and possess hand grenades, or at least bombs, and machine guns, but it isn’t. Second, controls on military weaponry in other countries have been effective: Australia and England, for example, which are similar to the US in many ways. Third, even though this is a big country it generally follows the rules of the coasts, specifically the Northeast and California, from free labor (as opposed to slavery) to freedom of choice to Keynesian economics. Imposition of rational gun laws nationwide is just part of an evolutionary process as old as the republic. Anyway, theory aside, we can have both a ban on military weapons in private hands and a drivers license style requirement like you suggest.

            • Laws against high-capacity guns and automated firing

              Of the recent mass-shootings, is there any indication that the shooter had advanced machining technology skills? If not, then it is pretty safe to assume that a ban on high-capacity clips and automated firing would have prevented those crimes.

              I think that no gun for consumer use should even have the concept of a “clip” – reloading after 10 bullets should be a manual event. There is no need to “slap another clip in” unless you’re looking to do serious damage.

              Sure, people can get around such a ban – but they would have to work a lot harder to do it, and anyone enabling them would be a big-time criminal. I don’t think many people would get into the business of criminally modifying firearms to make them skirt such a ban, and for those who are caught doing this, this is a much worse crime than selling weed.

            • "the law was drafted by people who did not really understand what they were doing"

              That, I suspect, is quite likely true. I hope that the folks in DC and elsewhere who are looking to reinvigorate our gun laws have the good sense not to simply re-pass what used to be the law, but take a long, hard look at how the legislation could be improved. And by all means, involve the gun rights community. They aren’t all the NRA, and a lot of them have a lot of knowledge that would be immensely beneficial to legislators.

  5. Here's some more data

    On the Global Sociology Blog, check out this chart in particular.

    The correlation between gun ownership and gun deaths in the developed world could not be more striking.

    It is very difficult to look at that correlation and agree with NRA backers who argue that if only more regular citizens had guns, we’d all be safer from gun crimes because a good guy would take out a shooting bad guy. Look at the data, and it’s quite clear that the nations where fewer regular citizens have guns are safer from gun murders, not better protected.

    Republicans claim they want to run government more like private industry. OK, then, let’s do a cost-benefit analysis. What exactly is the demonstrated, data-supported benefit of having rapid-fire assault weapons available to anyone with a credit card?

    I’m not talking hunting — there are differing points of views on this but I will readily acknowledge that hunting is an important activity to millions of Americans. But I’m not talking about banning rifles used to shoot deer. I’m talking about rapid-fire assault weapons designed to kill as many human beings as possible. Someone tell me what the benefit is that’s worth the proven risk of mass murders.

    • Your problem is right there

      We have two political traditions, one that seeks to preserve the past and is emotionally attached to ancient traditions and the other that uses reason and looks at the data. From evolution, to climate change, to gay marriage, abortion or gun control conservatives don’t look at the data they look at their watch and pretend the date still says 1950 (or 1850) and they vote with their heart and gut. The only good to come out of this is that its hard to look 26 grieving families in the eye and deny that data and argue their lives were worth this perverse unlimited freedom to bare arms. Now the gut check and emotion are on our side. Use the data to make the points but the only point to make is its time we disarm terrorists. Period.

    • One more data point

      On the same day as the Sandy Hook horror, a man attacked and injured children and an adult at an elementary school in China. Private gun ownership is illegal in China, so the man was using a knife. 22 children and an adult were injured. Nobody died. Nobody. Not the elderly lady who was attacked first, not the man with the knife, and not one child.

      Gun ownership is not the reason that disturbed people attack schools and other places people gather, and we should definitely look at why it happens and address the root causes. But even if no such berserker attacks occur, one of the costs of allowing private gun ownership is dead innocents, including children. There’s no escaping that fact. Every gun-control measure is intended to reduce the incidence of such deaths, and the more stringent they are, the more effective they are at doing that. Because most of the restrictions are state laws, and some states pass few or no such laws, even stringent laws are too easy to circumvent.

      There should be more stringent national controls. Other countries have them, and have not succumbed to tyranny. Our allowing citizens to go armed is not going to be what prevents our succumbing to it, either. It’s the 21st Century. Let’s get civilized, shall we?

  6. Maybe there should be protests, pickets, etc., ...

    . . .at gun shows, gun shops, and gun manufacturers. Or boycotts and divestment campaigns. The people who make a living facilitating the 10,000 or so annual gun deaths should be pointed out.

  7. Predictable

    I feel that both co-editors have made well reasoned arguments that do not entirely conflict with each other. But I’m going to weigh in on the side that this was predictable. Check out this link: National Shooting Sports Foundation
    That’s right: headquartered in Newtown, CT.
    Apparently over the past year there have been debates in Newtown over the proliferation of shooting ranges. These were not people trying to ban hunting. They were unnerved by the loud explosive noises getting nearer and nearer to their homes. Obviously there are many factors and larger social patterns that led up to last Friday’s tragedy. But that they converged in Newtown is no coincidence.

  8. Glorification of guns and killing

    The problem is not guns – it is the glorification of guns and the glorification of their deadly power. This is what must stop.

    Does anyone remember the incident a couple of years ago where a man brought his 8-year old son to a shooting range to shoot a machine gun? The 8-year old was being directly supervised by a 16-year old kid. End result: the 8-year old couldn’t handle the machine gun, it turned upward, and shot himself in the head. He was instantly killed.

    The boy was in third grade. The father was a physician and the medical director of the emergency department at Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford Springs, Conn. He was just about to take a photo of his son firing the gun when his son died.

    Do you know who set up the event? The chief of police in Pelham, MA – with a website called “COP Firearms & Training”. Kids were let in for free.

    The area state representative, Republican Donald Humason, said this: “If we don’t teach kids how to use dangerous things they will find them and use them the wrong way.”

    That is sick and twisted – I have never heard of children “finding machine guns and using them the wrong way”.

    Six hundred people showed up looking for the chance to shoot machine guns. In my opinion, every one of those people at the event has mental issues. The father was trying to indoctrinate his mental issues to his son. They should all undergo counseling. But instead, the desire to use a weapon designed for killing for “fun” is seen as perfectly normal. It is not.

    This is going to be a difficult task because so many people have fallen prey to the psychological manipulation that organizations like the NRA have put out there. But we have to start somewhere.

    • Nonsense.

      Hollywood isn’t restricted to tUSA. The most popular movies in England and Australia are the same as here. The most popular video games there — same as here. And so on.

      The problem is the guns. Australia and England — not so many guns. Not so many dead people from guns. Simple as that.

      • Never said hollywood

        Where did I mention “Hollywood”? I didn’t even have this in mind when writing my post. In my example, the Chief of Police of a small Western MA community thought that it was super-duper to allow an eight year old boy to shoot machine guns. The entire event was designed to allow people to shoot machine guns.

        The Republican state rep, after an eight year old boy was killed, still didn’t find fault with the event, saying “If we don’t teach kids how to use dangerous things they will find them and use them the wrong way.”

        If that isn’t glorifying guns and the destruction they can achieve, I don’t know what is. No Hollywood involvement there.

        More and more I am hearing about these so-called “gun clubs” who are letting their members fire stronger and stronger weapons. There was an example in Williamsburg MA where the neighbors of a gun club started hearing loud “booms” coming from the club’s land, and saw a lot of vehicles with dark-tinted windows always going in and out of the property. One company using this property advertised itself as providing “to the people, law enforcement, and the military the tools for self-defense and homeland security in a way that is economical and efficient.”

        It is a mental sickness to advertise machine guns for self-defense. Events such as these glorify the use of deadly weapons. This kind of stuff has to stop.

        The marketing of guns treats them as a symbol of manhood. It implies that you gain power with a gun. This is one step away from explicitly telling people that having a gun allows you to “win” arguments. Bushmaster even marketed a “Y2K” gun. That’s perverse.

        • Never said you said Hollywood

          Believe it or not, I write my own ideas, not merely in response to yours.

          My point is that the single biggest exposure the vast majority of us have to gun glorification is from Hollywood, going back to (at least) Rambo. Most of us don’t hang out at shooting ranges, battlefields, and the like. We see the guns on the toob.

          So do the Aussies and the Brits. They too see all of that Alpha-male tough guy, and all of that clever yet street smart detectives shoot down perps with perfect form. And yet, they don’t have the guns themselves.

          They live with all that glorification, but not so many gun deaths because… not so many guns.

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