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bullet  Asking the Right Questions

After my previous blog post, the response from readers was fantastic — the clarity, the different ideas, the stating the problem without blaming or exonerating guns. But Rob in Sydney Australia didn't seem to "get" what I was saying that in the national "debate" about mass shootings, we're asking the wrong questions. It came to a head after this comment, by Tyler in Massachusetts:

I laugh at your repeated copy/paste of the "Which is WHY we must address the actual problem, not the tool used." line; it's astounding how many don't get it, but I suppose that they're not really reading.

At the same time, I seethe at the suggestion that it would be MUCH better if the murderous psychopath "only" had knives — how many fewer children would be killed! As if that's a solution? What an amazing thought process these people have. Why, it would be GREAT if the kids were slowly hacked to death, since it would take 10X as long, and the cops could get there and stop him after only killing a few kids!

Wow.

I replied: yes, the idea that if we simply get rid of guns so that the nuts will "only" have knives is boggling. Surely NO ONE will think of using household chemicals to make a bomb, which will take out many more kids than even a gun. The lack of just plain thinking is astonishing.

To which Rob in Sydney demanded:

Why? 1. It will mean far less people will die (surely a credible outcome in itself) 2. Knives, hammers etc have a legitimate primary use. 3. Government can't control human emotions — but it can have some influence on what 'tools' people have close to hand when emotions get out of control.

No one is proposing that it is ideal that someone can carve up 5 people in a frenzy with a knife — but that is a far better outcome than them shooting dead 20 people.

You keep saying "we must address the actual problem, not the tool used." So in your opinion what is the problem and, more to the point, what do you propose is done about it that is viable, affordable and realistic? You brushed off my previous comment about 'national mental health screening' as being 'smarmy' — and I was being sarcastic — because it simply will cost too much, invade people's privacy and won't work regardless. Better health care IS a major issue, and needs to be addressed in the longer term, but we need to concentrate on the things we can control now, and the easy access to high powered automatic weapons is one of those things.

If you can't see that then 'The lack of just plain thinking is astonishing.'

My Reply to Rob

Let's start with Rob's "Why?"

First, Rob, you're arguing my point, and don't even realize it.

A bloody knife is NOT an alternative solution! Photo: Mavadam@FlickrSlow down, and read that again. You're arguing MY point: to say that guns should be banned and the killers have to be satisfied with knives, and that will reduce the number of killings, admits that "the tool" is not the problem. Got that? The problem isn't a gun, whether it has a large capacity or not, whether it can shoot quickly or not, if there's no killer to pick it up and use it, right? So just give those killers knives instead! But by saying the killers will kill no matter what tool they have at their disposal, so let's give them less-lethal tools, you admit the problem isn't the gun, it's not the knife, it's not even the home-made bomb, but rather it's that there is a killer who will use any tool! Can you really not see this? Thus "the problem" I speak of is not the tool, it's that there are people willing to use them.

Second, guns certainly do have a "legitimate use": most trot out hunting and target shooting. Yep, legitimate. But I'll add the one most ignore because it makes some uncomfortable, even though it's the most important legitimate use: self-defense. When properly trained, when armed, even small women become the equal of even large men. "When seconds count, police are just minutes away" is a cute slogan, but not true. They're often much more than the implied few minutes away. If I called 911 tonight because there's an armed intruder in my house, I can count on a cop arriving in just ...45 minutes, if he's not on another call even farther away. Seriously: overnight there's one deputy on call for my 550 square-mile county. Most of the time they sleep the night with no calls; they sleep at the office, which is 45 minutes away.

Self defense against criminals (including the killers which you acknowledge are out there) is a fundamental human right. It's also a responsibility. I'll quote someone else's comment on my Friday post: "The keeping of the peace, policing, is incumbent upon all citizens, not just those of us who are paid to enforce the law. That is one of the very foundations of our system of self governance." —Scott, U.S. Military, currently deployed overseas.

What are the odds I'll need a gun to protect the lives of myself or others? Pretty damned low, especially since violent crime rates are way down the past couple of decades. (Why? Because of increased gun ownership, and legalization of concealed carry!) Yes, very low indeed — but higher than the odds I'll need a fire extinguisher in my home, and I do have several of those. Don't you?

An Analogy

Blaming the gun, rather than the killer, reminds me of the 1970s, when deaths from auto crashes were really ramping up. At the end of the 50s, the number was less than 38,000 deaths/year (5.41 per 100 million miles). In the early 70s the yearly total broke 55,000 deaths. It was "obvious" that high speeds were killing lots of people, and therefore we MUST 1) lower speed limits, and 2) enforce speed limit laws zealously.

The "gas crisis" was used as an excuse. Several states lowered their limits to 55, and Nixon signed 55 as the national speed limit in January 1974. Did the death toll go down? Yes, a little — but so did driving (due to the gas crunch); studies after the fact showed conflicting data: some said the reduced limit actually reduced safety and increased crashes and, thus injuries and deaths. Sure enough, when the gas crunch eased, deaths started going up again — even though the speed limit was still 55. It broke 50,000 again by 1978, and hovered around there for several years, even though the speed limit was still 55.

So clearly, speed wasn't the real problem: people still died in crashes in horrific numbers. So what, really, was "obvious"? When the real problems were addressed (primarily drunk driving, and poor "crash worthiness" in cars, which was addressed by new safety standards), traffic fatalities started trending down. But the real key was the public getting fed up: Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was formed in early 1980. That year the death toll was more than 51,000. The very next year, it was 49,000, and in 1982 44,000 — even as the number of miles driven steadily increased with the population. (Yearly summary.)

Cars started getting safer, too, with better "crumple zones" and better restraints, and injury-reduction devices like airbags. When the national speed limit was raised in 1987 to 65, the death rate dropped. The national limit was fully repealed in 1995, and the death rate stayed steady, even as speed limits were raised to 70, 75, and in some areas even 85 mph.

(I'm a beneficiary of those better safety standards. This year I was in a high-speed crash, smashing into an adult buck that jumped in front of me on a rural road. My car suffered more than $8,000 in damage — yet I didn't even suffer a scratch.)

What was "obvious" was proven not to be. Speed wasn't the problem. Reducing the number of drunks reduced the number of crashes drastically, and when people did crash, they were far less likely to be injured, let alone killed, because cars were made more "crash worthy" (protective of the occupants).

Today, the number is approximately 37,000 deaths/year — below the 1959 number, even with a surging population. Rather than 5.41 deaths/100 million miles driven in 1959, it's now (2011 numbers were just released) just over 32,000, and just 1.1 deaths/100 million miles. That's progress due to asking the right questions, and then taking action. There's still a long way to go, but meanwhile how many tens of thousands of needless deaths were there because people didn't ask the right questions, and assumed the "obvious" — that "Speed Kills"?

Drawing the Parallel

I'm not just worried that we're going down that same road today — asking the wrong questions, and coming to the wrong conclusions because it's "obvious" — I'm sure of it. While the number of lives at stake in mass shootings is nowhere near the tens of thousands per year from auto crashes that were needlessly sacrificed to an "obvious" solution that wasn't, I still think it's smart to step back a little and think. It's "obvious" that guns are the problem? Not to me it isn't. To me, the problem is the killers, and why they are killers — and we're doing very little to address that problem. Of course we must do much more to keep guns — and knives and bombs and baseball bats — out of the hands of the violent mentally ill. There are already laws about it, but are we doing what we can to reduce the chances of them arming themselves without impacting the responsible citizens who have the right to defend themselves, hunt, even simply have fun target shooting?

You ask how we identify the mentally ill. Just ask the cops, the parents, the siblings, the co-workers, the social workers: they already know about most of them. There's no screening required — until someone has been identified as a potential problem. And then what? Well, currently, and then nothing: there aren't "beds" (places) for them in the very few surviving mental hospitals, and no money to pay for treatment anyway, nor money for more "beds" — instead that money is going to build more and more and more prisons, and that is just one of the underlying problems. Our spending priorities are wrong because we're asking the wrong questions about what's really needed.

Colorado, for instance, finally said "ENOUGH!" about marijuana: stop throwing people in prison for using or possessing small amounts of pot. Prohibition (another once "obvious" solution) hasn't just not worked, it's an utter failure that's negatively impacting society more than the problem it's trying to cure — more damage caused by people who thought the solution was "obvious". Slowly, but surely, we'll see some of the money spent on those prosecutions and incarcerations ramping down, and we can then decide how we want to reprioritize it. But that's only because people in Colorado (and Washington state) realized we were getting the wrong answers to the "drug problem" because we were asking the wrong questions.

So yes: we must address the actual problem, not the tool used. What Rob thinks is "obvious" is almost certainly not. We didn't ban cars when auto deaths broke 55,000/year, and the "obvious" solution turned out to not be so obvious. We wasted time and thus lives with reducing speed limits, and pissed off a lot of people in the process. (It didn't even meet the modest gas-saving goals: it's estimated that the lower speed limit only reduced fuel usage by 0.5%.)

We truly cannot get guns off the streets even if a ban was a fantastic idea and legal, since what remains out there will continue to be used because we haven't addressed the actual problem, which is the wrong people getting their hands on them to solve their anger because there were no other solutions available to them. But we can save a lot of lives if we step back and start asking the right questions, which is what my Friday essay is about in the first place.

We do need to have a discussion about what to do. Knee-jerk reactions won't simply violate the rights of law-abiding citizens, and deprive them of their fundamental human right to defense, they clearly won't solve the actual problem: angry people wanting to take their rage out on others. We need to look carefully at what we really want to accomplish, and why we haven't accomplished it already. We need to understand why people become enraged killers and stop them from doing it with any "tool", not give them somewhat-less-lethal tools and be oh-so-self-satisfied that they're not killing quite as many people in shopping malls, theaters, and schools.

Thus some of the questions to ask are:

  • When we identify violent, mentally ill people, do we have a system to get them help?
  • Is there a correlation between closing most mental hospitals (and dumping the patients on families — or the streets) and an increase in violence perpetrated by the mentally ill?
  • Did the pendulum swing too far in the other direction (too much reliance on mental hospitals to too little)?
  • What do we need to do to understand their rage — so we can counter it?
  • How do we keep them from harming others with any weapon, or even if they have no weapon?
  • How can we make public places safer without bankrupting the country in the process?
  • What have we tried before that hasn't worked? Why didn't it?
  • What haven't we thought of before, and what are the ramifications of the idea?

Those are a lot closer to the right questions, but certainly not all of the questions that need to be part of the public debate. And none of these questions lead to "Let's only arm the criminally insane with knives, rather than guns, since those are somewhat less lethal." That is NOT an acceptable alternative!

So there's a little more explanation for the few who didn't quite understand Friday's five short paragraphs.

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Note Regarding Comments: I will not be approving comments that bring up questions or points already covered on this page. No, the sample "questions" don't cover every possible thing, as stated already. They're merely a sampling of the less "obvious" questions that need to be asked, and answered carefully, before deciding on how to proceed.

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217 Comments on This Entry

All comments in this blog are reviewed prior to being published. Spammers: don't waste your time. The posting criteria are simple: if a comment is worth visitors' time to read, it's approved. If not, it's not.


Posted by David, Canada on December 17, 2012:

Another fine essay, which made me think, and made me realize that we feel the same way on this issue.

However, I must ask, are most of the firearm shootings committed in the US done by mentally unbalanced people? Surely Friday's Connecticut shooting was, not only the obvious that no one in his right mind would shoot at a school full of unarmed young children, but from hearing what the suspect was like in his life, he was mentally unstable. But is that true of everyone who has deliberately, and with malice aforethought, shot another member of the human race? Was everyone convicted of murder with a firearm deemed "clinically insane" before the act happened? (I ask, despite essentially agreeing with everything you write, because I heard some talking head on TV bring up this very fact that shootings by the mentally ill consist of a small percentage of the overall homicide numbers (I think the number quoted was under 25%).

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I guess it would depend on your definition of "mentally unbalanced" people. By my definition, most are done by psychopaths ...er, sociopaths -- er, to use the current term: those with "antisocial personality disorder," which is characterized by "...a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood." (Wikipedia) That would include criminals killing people to eliminate witnesses. Most would not include those as "violently mentally ill," but I do. Seriously: would someone who meets your definition of "normal" kill someone in cold blood? -rc

Posted by Steve (Edmonton, AB) on December 17, 2012:

Some good comments there but I feel you’re missing the mark on a few of them.

For starters, for me this is not just about preventing the next Newtown but also reducing the number of gun-related deaths, whether mass killings or random street murders. As I’m sure you know, some 10,000 Americans die by guns every year, and at a rate 5-10-20 times that of most civilized countries. There is almost 1 gun per person; again higher than almost every country.

To start with, I think you, as all Americans, have a bit of a blind spot here; i.e. you’ve grown up in a culture that accepts guns and violence as a way to settle matters. It’s deeply-rooted in your history. Guns have been used for a couple of hundred years to gain your independence, to expand westward, for survival, to settle a civil war… and today to settle disputes between people, to enforce one’s will, to protect yourself.

This is so different than in almost every other western industrialized country, where guns are more restricted and their use (for self-defence, even for “sport”) is less accepted. We (I am Canadian) don’t understand your world, and Americans don’t understand ours.

One cannot reduce the number of deaths to zero, nor prevent more mass killings… but one can and should look to reduce them. Sure, better access to mental health services is needed, as are tighter restrictions on who can buy a gun and better gun education. But there are other legs on the stool. To me, one also needs to review what guns people are allowed to own.

Many Americans love to trot out the 2nd Amendment to support their right to own a gun. Now, whether a 200 year old law is still valid today… I’ll leave that to you to consider. I do feel that there should be tighter restrictions on the types of guns. Having a rifle for hunting or a pistol for defence (in one’s own home) is okay; however, in my mind, there simply is no logical reason for someone to own an assault rifle or other rapid-fire, high-capacity guns or pistols. The arguments put forward generally revolve around the fact that since the Constitution allows one to own such a weapon, people want to do it. This is just plain silly. For competitive shooting or target shooting, people can go to a range. For collectors, guns can be disabled or required to be locked up.

And I know that even if many types of guns are banned, that won’t solve the program overnight, as there are ~300 million guns in the US. Perhaps you can implement a forced buyback program, as that seems to have worked in Australia.

Basically, in my mind, you need to make it harder for these nut jobs to kill a lot of people. that includes making it more difficult for them to carry out their mission; i.e. keeping them off the street, locking schools, having armed security guards in busy public places... and (IMO) having less access to powerful weapons,

Because if steps are not taken, what Americans need to accept is that they will continue to hear about people being shot down on a regular basis, and occasionally to hear about 10-20-30 innocent people, including people in theatres and kids in school, being gunned down. Is that okay??

Thanks for listening.

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The U.S. has the highest gun ownership by gross number of guns for the population (88.8 guns per 100 residents). That doesn't mean 89% of citizens own guns, since if, say, on average a person who owns a gun has two, that means 44.4% of citizens own guns. If it's four guns average, then 22.2%.

In Switzerland, the similar number is 45.7% (chart). I can't find the reference, but I recall that because most of the Swiss have a single gun, their percentage of the population who own guns (as part of being conscripted into the militia -- they keep their issued guns at home) is higher than in the U.S. Yet the firearm death rate in the U.S. is dramatically higher than in Switzerland. So clearly, it's not having guns that's the issue, it's indeed the culture of violence. Ban guns, and the culture of violence is still there.

That's another example of asking the right question: if it's not guns per se, then what IS it? THAT has to be part of the conversation, and that's the point.

As for whether a 200-year-old enshrined right is "outdated," is the freedom of religion outdated? The right of free speech? The right to petition the government for redress of grievances? Read this comment on Friday's post by a self-professed liberal about why Americans should feel terror at the tinkering of our rights.

You believe in self-defense, but only in your own home? You lose that human right when you go to the grocery store? What an odd position to take.

But yes, both of these essays ARE about "making it harder for these nut jobs to kill a lot of people." You decry our armed society, yet you call for "having armed security guards in busy public places." I don't want to delegate my self-defense to a $10/hr guy who washed out of the police academy, thank you.

And again, this is all about "taking steps". You seem to want an instant answer, today please!, to a long-standing problem. Ain't gonna happen. Knee-jerking is guaranteed to make it worse. I hope you're listening too. -rc

Posted by Bob, San Antonio TX on December 17, 2012:

One different question to be explored: The drugs & Big Pharma.

The anti-depressants have side effects: as I understand it, suicidal and homicidal tendencies are enhanced, proven reactions to some of these wonder drugs handed out by the med system.

It would be interesting to know how many of the perps WERE in treatment and pharmacologically assisted.

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A terrific point, and great questions. I haven't researched that myself, but I have heard from a variety of sources, including a friend with a child on anti-depressants, that these effects are especially seen in youths. Who is drugged most in schools? Boys. Who does most school shootings? Young males. Hmmm. While obviously that won't account for every case, it's a question that needs to be answered. (My friend, by the way, took her kid off the drugs when he started getting enraged. He's doing fine now.) -rc

Posted by C, Pennsylvania on December 17, 2012:

In these issues guns are an implement, much like the fork for your mashed potatoes. Let Eric Holder round up "all" the guns and be aghast that the problem remains but with new dimensions. The implement may be an Oklahoma City truck full of explosives or perhaps Assad's 55 gallon barrels of sarin get to the underground market.

Evidence to date suggests that 20 to 30 is the shooters' kill max before the shooter's death by his own hand or law enforcement officers. The sarin barrel has the potential to up the total to tens of thousands. Thus Mr. Holder's vigilantes will not remove the problem, but they will change the dimensions and scope.

Is this an argument for do nothing? Not at all. I'm saying that presidential statements and noise by the Mayor of NYC are focusing on the killers hands, not on the root of the problem: the killer's brain.

What is causing this national psychosis? I contend that in the past 50 years we have become a culture that gives our young every thing they need in material goods and gives little or nothing in terms of parental quality time, full assurance that the child is loved and valued, and most importantly -- a full understanding of what is expected in terms of character and interaction with others.

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An extreme, but plausible, example of why we need to think about the ramifications before implementing "solutions". -rc

Posted by Jim, California on December 17, 2012:

Another point that I think needs to be addressed: we are CREATING these lunatics in large numbers by forcing kids to take psychotropic drugs (Ritalin, Zoloft etc), the known side-effects of which are tendencies toward violence and suicide. Without going into a long diatribe, I'll just state that there is a huge problem with the psychiatric-pharmaceutical complex drugging kids for what used to be considered normal adolescent behavior -- and schools have no business forcing these bogus diagnoses on kids.

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You posted this before I approved the previous comment on the same topic, but I'll post this "duplicate" just to show how others are thinking the same thing. -rc

Posted by Dennis in Bothell, WA on December 17, 2012:

You hit it on the head.

I've been telling people that banning guns overall penalizes everybody, as you point out, and doing so is like treating otherwise responsible adults as children -- one idiot did something heinous, so everybody has to pay for it. Certainly the vast majority of your readers are not children, and accordingly, deserve to be treated with the respect they earn as adults -- and this includes my right to purchase a gun and carry it if I should wish to do so, here in the Seattle area.

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Assuming your rights haven't been taken from you (convicted felon, for instance). -rc

Posted by Terry, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada on December 17, 2012:

(1) Has it been confirmed that the shooter did have underlying mental health issues? Or is it still supposition as in, he committed this horror, therefore he must have been 'crazy'.

(I ask, because all I've heard is 'autism' and 'Aspergers'.)

(2) To veer off a bit, perhaps your kind of analysis would benefit airline security practices?

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It has been confirmed that many such shooters have mental health issues, but it is NOT confirmed that the Newtown shooter did (that I've seen).

And yes, good point: look how knee-jerking is affecting airline security! Take off your shoes! No water allowed! How much more rational would it be with this sort of process, rather than our current "security theater," which does little to actually provide security? -rc

Posted by Neil - 101st Airborne Vet, Hawthorne, CA on December 17, 2012:

I pity those who are so un-informed (or perhaps so illogical and irrational) they are unable to grasp the reason we private citizens NEED to be able to own our own high-powered, high-capacity weapons is we MAY need them to fight against either criminals who have them or even against the police/military of our own country.

While none of us who now have and/or want to own high-powered, high-capacity, weapons want to end up fighting our own goverment, both history & current events PROVE it is people's OWN governments who KILL the most of them.

After all, some 200,000,000 people have been KILLED by their OWN governments!

Anyone who does not think it could not happen here in the good old USA is NOT "playing with a full deck" and are "several cans short of a six pack"

Posted by Dusty - Dallas, TX on December 17, 2012:

Media fuels the fires by publicizing these horrors & the names of those who committed the acts. While we do enjoy the benefits of a Free Press, they should use considerably more restraint. What can the unorganized general public do to pressure the media to behave more responsibly? Can we sue them for public endangerment?

Not the total answer, but part of an overall solution.

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Frivolous lawsuits aren't the answer to that minor-by-comparison sub-problem. The media is clearly concentrating more on the victims, not the perpetrator. I've only seen the current murderer's photo once so far, and I consume a lot of news. It seems this is self-correcting. -rc

Posted by Steve (Edmonton, AB) on December 17, 2012:

No, I don't believe in nor advocate for simple solutions to a complex problem; I hope my post didn't come across that way. One cannot undo a 250+ year history and culture overnight. I do not know how best to solve it, so I am interested in others’ views. I *do* believe in taking steps to reduce the carnage which, in my view, needs to include tighter restrictions on guns. I believe you also believe in taking action. Otherwise, we’re all accepting that these events will continue to occur in the USA on a too-frequent basis.

Actually, I, like the vast majority of Canadians, don’t believe in owning a gun for self-defence, whether at home or at a mall. I accept that others may feel the need for the former, especially those living in remote areas. For me, as for most Canadians, it’s not about the “right” to carry a weapon, concealed or not; it’s whether it’s needed or effective. We’ve decided that it’s not. I just hope that we can keep this way of life.

So yes, it’s not about banning all guns; it’s about dealing with the culture of violence that permeates the States. Including making it harder for mad men to get hold of a powerful weapon when they head out on some rampage.

Re the comment “As for whether a 200-year-old enshrined right is "outdated,”… I wasn’t suggesting that it should be scrapped (that would never be acceptable in the States) but surely it can be modified based on changes in technology and societal norms. You have other amendments that changed rules such as for who has the right to vote.

By the way, as you mentioned Switzerland… yes, gun ownership is high there. Most men have to serve a few years in the Swiss Army, where they undergo weapons training. They must keep their weapon at home; however it must be kept in a locked cabinet at all times, and when their service is over, the fully-automatic function is removed. And since 2007, they cannot keep any ammunition at home (I guess it’s issued only when needed).

The bottom line is that the USA sticks out in the civilized, industrialized world in its view on guns, and it also suffers by far the most deaths (by population) by guns, including mass killings. And those two facts are correlated. Again, it’s not my world and culture; I can only observe it, sadly, from afar.

Posted by Xian Canada on December 17, 2012:

A problem I find with many gun advocates in the US is that they will agree with some gun control laws, such as background checks, training and registration for machine guns, etc. but many of those methods do not matter much when many states such as Arizona have no regulations or prohibitions on the private sale of firearms, which means any gun owner can privately sell their guns to anyone else without having to do a background check, have a license, permit, etc. and because of that, criminals and gangs from neighbouring states can buy their guns easily to be used in crimes and many people that shouldn't have a gun can get them. Now, I have no problem with legal and responsible gun ownership but gun owners should have no problem with more rational and responsible gun control laws. Just allowing the regulation of all gun sales consistently throughout all states will keep many guns out of the the hands of people that should not have them. Without that, and other sensible gun control methods, the current free for all of guns and shootings you have now like cowboys in the wild west will still go on with several people every hour of every day being killed in your country.

Again, I know that alone won't stop all violence, homicides, etc. and there are many parts to the equation, but can you not agree that guns are part of the problem and some things should and can be done to help cut down on the death tolls, and at the same time won't impede the lawful and responsible ownership of guns.

Posted by Daryl, Palm Desert, CA on December 17, 2012:

The main Historical justification for 2nd Amendment Rights is that more than a few times in the last two centuries, the Age of Reason, it has not been a deranged individual who has had the psychotic break but the Government itself, which goes on to engage in Public Mass Murder, ala Robespierre, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc., etc., of a disarmed, defenseless, civilian population.

Posted by Steve (Edmonton, AB) on December 17, 2012:

re the comment on airline security... yes, most of the measures taken in response to incidents are knee-jerk ones and rather ineffective in foiling many true threats. However, one needs to realize that these measures are mainly intended to placate passengers' fears (whether real or not). the FAA (and Transport Canada) need to be seen doing *something* about the threat.

it's a good point, though; i.e. for reducing gun-related incidents, one must consider effective measures, not introduce something just to show a response.

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"Doing something" just to respond is theater. Being reactive when something happens we don't like. Giving in to fear by trampling rights, but not actually improving anything, is what we have come to expect out of the government, and we must demand better. I am, of course, talking about airline security.... -rc

Posted by Javier, Ottawa on December 17, 2012:

You argue we have to separate the root of the problem, the person committing the violent act, from the tool. Sorry, but that is not possible. A violent person with a gun is not the same as a violent person with only his fists. The damage the sort of weapons that are out there can make and are making exceeds any justification for possessing them. Nobody needs an assault weapon at home. If that is not self-evident, then I don't know what is.

You cannot separate the individual from the circumstances he operated in. If this is a question of risk management, you cannot separate the variable of the probability of a violent incident happening from the damage it can potentially cause, because risk is the factor of both. Guns are a weapon of choice because they are both easy to get by and easy to use and, with the kind of weapons available on the market, immensely destructive. I can't think of any other kind of weapon that mixes those factors together in such a convenient way. That multiplies the potential damage part of the risk equation to a magnitude that needs addressing as much as the other factor, the violent person aspect you seem to favor. Skewing the debate in mostly only one direction is simply wrong. You have to deal with both aspects. The culture of violence, the lack of support for the mentally ill, etc. AND the availability of firearm weapons.

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The issue here isn't "assault weapons at home." No one cares about assault weapons at home, we care about them being used in murders. But even if you were able to magically destroy every single "assault weapon" on the planet, the killings would continue, because as has been shown again and again and again and again and again, the problem isn't assault weapons, it's not bombs, it's not knives, it's not rocks, it's not clubs, it's not even fists that's the problem. The culture of violence is. The goal is not to eliminate weapons, it's to stop the killings. "If that is not self-evident, then I don't know what is." -rc

Posted by John, Arkansas on December 17, 2012:

I am quite suspicious of using mental health as a way to imprison people. Especially in the response to such an emotionally charged event. Who decides who is “ill”? Two doctors once labeled me as “ill”, because they did not recognize my hearing loss. Would a single suicide attempt such as the one I made in the aftermath of my being raped qualify me for detention if I did anything eccentric to draw attention to myself? Or if I told off someone who cut me off in traffic or otherwise got into a verbal altercation? Think about it, could a single loss of temper, without actually striking anyone could be “read” as he’s about to go off the rails? Done wrongly, mental health “detentions”, or things of that nature, could actually exacerbate and instigate incidents. We would need to define mental illness, and determine who would make the call? A doctor? A judge? A jury? What criteria would have to be met? Threat of violence? Explicit threats? Or would telling mother you hoped she died count?

To this day, I still access mental health professionals due to my abuse over a quarter of a century ago. But, due to stigma and the ever connected world we live in, I make pains to pay in cash and give almost no personal information to the providers. Simply put, I don’t want those records available as fodder for others. However, I have never committed an act of violence to another. Each year I usually make fewer visits. I take no medications.

But, you see my fear when people talk of “locking up all the mentally ill” in response to a tragedy like this? I don’t think that’s *your* intent here, Randy. But, others I am not so sure. I am different. I have a lower set point that others, and I am so ***very*** aware of it. But, I know to go to a counselor when I need it. I know how to function. I am a survivor. And I do so fear, being locked in a box and forgotten because I am different. That I am not so sure I could survive.

So, if we are going to create a new mental health infrastructure to replace that we have already discarded, we need to make sure we put safeguards into place. Ready access to courts for review of one's status. The ability to have ones records expunged and thus the ability to "copyright" or otherwise reserve ownership of them to the government or hospitals so that independent companies can't sell "expunged" records to employers and punish innocents for merely accessing help. I just don't know that I trust the government with such an intrusive power over us.

Is it worth a few tens of thousands troubled adults wringed through such a system to save a hundred or a thousand a decade? I always thought the premise of our system was better a hundred guilty go free than one innocent suffer? Tightening such a system to get ALL of the guilty can be done, I am sure. But, I am equally sure, it will net thousands more innocents than it does guilty.

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Your concerns are valid. As I've said, we went WAY too far decades ago in tossing people into mental institutions. Lately we have gone WAY too far the other way, tossing truly ill people out of mental institutions. There has to be a rational medium. No one is saying we should lock people up because they have shifty eyes, or are nervous when cops are around. But you know as well as I do that there are obviously psychotic people who need help, and need to be prohibited from buying weapons, period. -rc

Posted by Phil - Quakertown, PA on December 17, 2012:

They say a pessimist is one who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Gun control advocates are pessimists, they see every shooting death as a cost, and ignore every woman who produced a gun and was therefore not raped, every homeowner who pulled a gun and was not attacked in her own home, every pedestrian not robbed because he kept his hand hovering near a pocket big enough to hold a gun.

Guns in the right hands save lives, preserve sanity. What's the value of not being raped? What's the cost of living a life after being helplessly savaged by thugs? Balance those lives saved by deterring the bad guys against the negative impacts of gun ownership. And acknowledge the reality that even the Lefty solutions to violent crime include armed guards or armed cops, because a good guy with a gun is the best cure for a bad guy with a gun.

Posted by Sergio - Israel on December 18, 2012:

I am an American who moved to Israel. I owned a gun in NJ and own one here. But the licensing and screening are completely different. In NJ, all I had to do was apply and wait for my background check to come back clean. Here, I not only had to apply and get a background check, but there is mandatory training required as well as a physical and referrals from known community members. This link has a good explanation of some of the differences.

I'd also point out that the numbers are a little misleading. Most 18-21 year olds here have had gun training. Those in combat units (like my 20 year old son) bring home their weapons when they go on leave or get out for the weekend. But before they are accepted into a combat unit, they all undergo psychological screening. And yet, gun violence here is rare -- and almost never with a legally registered weapon or with an army weapon. So even though the rate of gun ownership is low, there is a good chance that at one time or another, most houses in Israel have had a gun there.

Some other things not mentioned in the article: It is only legal to own a single gun in Israel. It is only legal to have a maximum of 50 bullets at any time (except on the firing range or for an army weapon). And unlike licensing in the States, a gun license has to be renewed every few years -- and that licensing includes a mandatory physical, a mandatory gun safety/gun law class and mandatory target practice. And it isn't just a rubber stamp either. At my last renewal class, the instructor refused to renew the license of someone who was handling his weapon in an unsafe manner.

There are no concealed carry licenses here. Either you can carry -- concealed or not -- or you can't.

In Israel, there is a presumption that if you are carrying a gun, you have an obligation to act if at all possible. As a matter of fact, if you don't act, because you didn't want to get involved, for example, you can be criminally prosecuted. Obviously, that doesn't apply if you didn't act because you had a legitimate reason, such as endangering innocent bystanders, but it goes to show the attitude of the country.

Finally, every elementary and high school here has an armed guard at the entrance. Every school field trip has an armed guard accompanying the students. And if a teacher is licensed to carry a gun, it is not unusual for them to be carrying it in school.

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It sounds wonderfully rational. One part I particularly like is that it's uniform throughout the country -- your description of New Jersey law is not necessarily the same in any other state. In some states, you can't carry concealed without a license, but you can carry openly, which understandably alarms some people. In other states, if you have a concealed carry permit you get get into big trouble if anyone happens to see it, since open carry is illegal, and your license is for concealed carry. If you live near your state's border, you have to know what neighboring states' laws are: one neighboring state may honor your permit, while another might not. It's a confusing mish-mash. -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on December 18, 2012:

The low gun crime, per capita, of other countries is touted as a benchmark against the US. While "per capita" does neutralize varying populations, it doesn't exist in a vacuum. Population does have an effect on the "per capita" comparisons. A larger population is more OPPORTUNITY for higher per capita incidents.

Taking Japan, for example, as a nation with low gun ownership and low gun crime, it's not just the lack of guns, but the very culture, itself. It wasn't that long ago that the Japanese were subject to lethal enforcement of "good manners." The Japanese, as individuals, are second to the importance of the society as a whole. Subservience is ingrained into their culture. The US is rare, if not unique, in the concept that the individual is superior to the government until such superiority causes measurable damage to the society as a whole.

It's possible to radically reduce all crime, including gun deaths, in the US. By rescinding the Constitution, we can create a society in which the government can intrude without penalty or obstruction and keep a very close watch on all citizens, and dictate what each of us may own/not own, what we may do/not do, with severe penalties for the most menial violations. But no one would agree to it. Therefore, as Dave/CA mentioned previously, crime IS the price we pay for our extended liberties. Even with 9,000 unjustified handgun deaths per year, even with mass shootings every year, YOUR chance of being a victim is so minuscule that you'd be doing better to worry about winning the lottery.

Posted by Richard, England on December 18, 2012:

I agree 100% that the problem is not the weapons, it is the people that misuse them. And I agree, too, that something must be done about the seriously disturbed people who slaughter innocent people.

But it is very difficult to ensure that some people -- regardless of the strignecy of the checks, will not go "over the edge" and commit these kinds of awful acts.

In the UK we have have had, for many years, very stringent gun controls. But a madman with four legally-held handguns entered the local school, and shot and killed sixteen children and one adult before committing suicide.

This massacre, which followed the Hungerford massacre, lead to the even stricter gun controls we now have which essentially mean that only those whose job requires firearms (typically only close-protection personal and police in terrorist sensitive areas) can possess firearms.

Predictably this ban received many protests but is was implemented and gun crime in the UK is now amongst the lowest in the world. Remove guns and people can't use them to massacre innocents.

In answer to those who suggest that such killers will switch to other weapons, this is rather a facile statement. Handguns are uniquely suited to close-quarters killing; that is what they were designed to do and they do it very well. Indeed, they have little purpose other than that of being easily concealed and easily used weapons of destruction. If knives were as effective then guns would not have been adopted.

Nobody, sane or sober, actually needs an automatic handgun. It is probably one of the most pointless possessions anyone can acquire.

It would be grand if it were possible to stop maniacs going on the rampage but, on the basis that it almost certainly can't be done, getting rid of guns would solve the immediate problem.

And citing in support the example of countries that have guns but have had no gun massacres is rather dangerous, I suggest. OK, there has as yet been no massacre in gun-owning Switzerland; up to a year ago there had been no massacre in gun-owning Norway.

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I'm unclear about your point that my suggesting that with guns banned, it's an easy argument to say they'll just use other weapons. Yes, it is easy, because it's true -- as we have seen in China with stabbings and hammerings. Next, while there is such a thing as an automatic pistol, they're extremely rare, and extremely tightly regulated at the federal level. Again, I've never heard of a school shooting perpetrated by anyone with an automatic weapon of any kind, let alone a pistol. -rc

Posted by Marcos (Spain) on December 18, 2012:

"The problem isn't a gun (snip) Thus "the problem" I speak of is not the tool, it's that there are people willing to use them."

Sorry for the paste, but I can't help but think you have it wrong. The fact that there are TWO problems doesn't make any of them irrelevant. Try to confront a group with a knife and try it with a gun: the chances that you get beaten with longer sticks are quite higher because you can get near easily enough. You know about guns: tell me how easy it is to get to someone aiming one at you. It certainly can't be easier than getting to someone with a knife, because you can stay easily out of range of the knife. So yes, knives can be a problem, but guns are exponentially worse: you have ten knives and you can use just two at any given time; you have a 30+ magazine in your gun and you can mow almost anyone down.

Let's take it to the other extreme. Why shouldn't people be able to own tanks or nukes? Hey, what's the worst that could happen if someone passes through the psychological tests and then flips out? Sorry but no, adding more guns to the mix doesn't solve the problem, it just multiplies it.

There's talk in this thread about responsible people being affected by irresponsible people's actions. Guess what: it happens. It happens when I have to wear a seatbelt because people aren't careful enough driving, it happens when I have to pay medical insurance when I'm probably not going to suffer accidents, it happens... What makes gun owning (Constitution aside) different? Nothing at all. We already have to deal with a lot of restrictions due to people being irresponsible, restrictions on what we can do and how much we pay for things.

And I can't help but find the bomb angle ludicrous. There are bombings, true. So what? Do we all get our own bombs just in case? We don't go storing C4 just in case.

The problem with gun misuse is that it is not between the destructive power of bombs and the availability of knives, it is the _combination_ of both: you get an readily available high power weapon you can use at any time with little or no decision time. You can't do that with bombs (they take time to prepare and set up) and you can't do that either with a knife (a good hit on the head with a long enough stick and the knife becomes the least of your problems).

And Switzerland gun owning is quite different to the USA's, mind you: the Swiss have guns at home as required by law; people at the USA have guns at home basically because they want to, because they willfully went out of their way to get them.

I can't get to agree to the oversupply argument either: since there are so many guns around, let's not limit the possibility to have even more guns around. I'm sure adding more fuel to the fire will put it out quickly.

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I find it amazing you can dismiss bombs so easily. The destruction in Oklahoma City was devastating, and not just to the target building. It was much worse than any mass shooting. -rc

Posted by Joe, NC on December 18, 2012:

The Second Amendment is not a law permitting guns. It is a restriction on the government restricting citizens' (God-given) rights. Everyone is screaming "repeal the 2nd". Repealing the second means we give the federal government ultimate say in regulating a right, not a permission. At that point we live (or die) at the hands of a bureaucracy.

Posted by Karen - Rockmart,Ga on December 18, 2012:

While I am never in favor of gun control l have to say I see no need for anyone outside the military and law enforcement to own fully automatic weapons or body armor. Both these appear to be a recurring theme among perpetrators of the type of mass shooting that occurred Friday. My first thought was maybe we should allow restrictions on both of these items but fear agreeing to any gun control is starting down a slippery slope toward losing all our freedom.

There is no easy answer or quick fix to this problem. Asking the right questions is the only way to start to find a solution. This isn't about guns (we can't say that enough).

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Yet again, there has never been an automatic weapon used at a school shooting. They are highly regulated at the federal level. You cannot effectively argue either side of this without knowing what's what. -rc

Posted by Tony, Japan on December 18, 2012:

Read the first entry last night, spent most of the day thinking about it. The following is not a conclusion, but merely the breadcrumbs I left on my mental journey.

You are of course right about the mental health aspect, but I can see why many people do not buy your stance on gun control.

It is intuitive to think that less guns would mean less gun crime, but the fact is that America is too far gone for this to work. There are too many guns already out there, and there is no workable way to stop the bad guys getting more if they want to. So you are essentially right; "banning" guns will not solve the problem.

But that does not mean that restricting them is not a step in the right direction. Sure, without guns most people who want to cause harm will turn to other weapons, but some, even if it is a tiny minority, might think twice on realising that using a knife would mean they risk hand to hand combat, or calm down enough to think again in the time it takes them to assemble the parts for a bomb. The potential exists for at least some incidents to be avoided.

The driving license analogy by Owen in Washington is not as flawed as it seems. While there is no constitutional guarantee to owning a car, there is one on freedom of assembly, and restricting movement would serve to infringe that. But to the anti-gun lobby, a semi-automatic assault rifle looks like a souped-up ethanol-powered dragster with no brakes or seatbelts: a danger to both an unsuited user and the people around him/her). In their eyes, an assault rifle is as far beyond the requirements of any legitimate need for defence as a Formula 1 car is beyond the requirements for everyday transport.

One comment you made yesterday stuck with me: "I'd much rather live in a country with occasional school shootings than in one without the basic freedoms that you would discard so lightly."

I had a hard time getting my head around this, but I eventually found the automobile analogy to again be the best. We tolerate the thousands of deaths on our roads every year because we need the convenience that automobiles provide. Evidently some Americans value their access to guns in the same way. But I think the importance, no, the sense of urgency, the threat, you feel towards the basic freedoms you hold so dear is lost, or at least numbed, in many people these days. Your (legitimate) claims about self defence against crime are understandable, but I think your fears about having to fight your own government would border on paranoia in the eyes of many. (I would venture, if I were to get into this more deeply, that the greatest democracy in the world should have the least fear of tyranny, as there are checks and balances in place, but this is a much too complicated subject for an amateur thinker like me. [I may or may not have the skills required, but I definitely lack the time.])

That's as far as I got with it today. As I said, no conclusion, but you won't get one of those in one day on topics like these.

As you always say, the purpose of your work is to get people to think; well, Mission Accomplished. I look forward to more of the same.

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I see a direct analogy between your "We tolerate [I would say: even ignore] the [tens of] thousands of deaths on our roads every year because we need the convenience that automobiles provide." and "We [very reluctantly] tolerate the thousands of deaths from gun violence every year because we value the security that guns provide." This is not theoretical: 800,000-2,500,000 crimes are stopped each year (depending on which study you consult) by honest citizens with guns -- the vast majority of time without firing a shot. This goes right to what Phil said above -- what is the value of not being raped? This side of the equation is huge, and cannot be ignored. And, by the way, has nothing to do with fighting the government, which I agree is a long shot (if you pardon the expression).-rc

Posted by Richard, England on December 18, 2012:

In answer the Steve, in fact, although gun deaths in the USA are very high at 27.97 per 100,000 (for England and Wales the figure is 0.07 and for Canada it is 0.51) the USA is far from having the highest number of deaths. In fact it rates at "only" 27th.

The dubious distinction of having the highest number is held by Honduras with a total of 68.43 deaths per 100,000.

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I'll note that Honduras has much more stringent gun control than the U.S. -rc

Posted by Tom, Decatur, IL on December 18, 2012:

Interesting timing on this debate. You comment on taking 45 minutes to get police to your house. Remember the story about a year ago of the woman on the phone to 911 while someone was breaking into her trailer? The use of her weapon was what saved her.

A similar event occurred in Decatur, IL this weekend. An intruder broke into a home in pursuit of a woman he had already assaulted. The homeowner was an off-duty conservation officer with two small children in the house. He called 911. They could hear him giving multiple warnings, but the intruder kept forcing his way through the house. The homeowner eventually shot the intruder. Police are NOT charging him. Agreed, this man needed a gun for his job, but any person should have the right to defend his family and property from an invader.

Here's a link to the story.

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There was another that I reviewed for TRUE a couple of months ago, but ultimately didn't use because it wasn't actually "weird": a 12-year-old girl home alone called her mother because someone was trying to break in. Mom said to get the gun and hide in a bathroom closet. Girl did as she was told. Before the police could arrive, the man not only broke into the house, but found the girl in the closet, and as he worked on opening the door, she shot him. A brave, brave girl, who saved herself. Ok, I had to look up the story, and here it is. I love what the girl said afterward: "When I had the gun, I didn't think I was actually going to have to shoot somebody. I think it's going to change me a whole lot, knowing that I can hold my head up high and nothing can hurt me anymore." Wow. -rc

Posted by John, Saskatoon on December 18, 2012:

From The New Republic:

As of today, there have been 70 mass shootings in the United States between 1982 and 2012, leaving 543 people dead (assuming the reports of 27 fatalities from today's shootings are correct.) Seven of those 70 shootings occurred this year. Sixty-eight of those 543 victims were killed this year. If the scenes of horror and heartbreak are now familiar, it's because the past six years have been particularly bloody. Fully 45% of the victims of mass shootings in America over the past three decades were killed since 2007.

You blame mental health and the loss of adequate treatment facilities, and not the demand for more macho firearms. The one used in Newtown was a Bushmaster, who incidentally are tying their gun & virility (Consider your man card re-issued). Yet you feel that not being able to own any gun is a restriction on your rights and you are willing to tolerate a few school shootings to keep the right to overthrow the tyrannical government.

Here are a couple of things that could be done to lessen the chance of this happening again; start funding mental health (although how your citizens will pay for it is beyond my understanding), make gun lockers mandatory (in Canada, firearms have to be kept in a gun locker, restricted firearms (pistols, semi-autos etc) must have a trigger lock and be locked away. This is the easy one, except those that believe that Obama is coming to get your guns.

You don't need to ban firearms, you need to make them more difficult to get, more difficult to steal, and make it a law that people need to use lockers, trigger locks and the like. More guns is not the answer (if it was, Lanza's mother needed 5), but proper care & safety of firearms is.

As an aside, I live in what is considered one of the most dangerous cities in Canada, the murder rate for 2011 was 2.16 (6 murders), in 2010, it was higher, as that year we had 10 murders (2nd highest murder rate in Canada!). Little Rock, Arkansas, which is slightly smaller, had 37 murders in 2011, more than 6 times the amount (and #6 on the list). Why is that?

Guns are not the sole problem, but they are part of the problem, and ignoring that is like trying to put out a fire in your fireplace, while your entire house is on fire.

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Please stop misrepresenting what I say: it's too easy to look on the page and see the differences. American gun ownership in general is not about "the right to overthrow the tyrannical government." It's about the basic human right to self-defense that is guaranteed by being enshrined in our Constitution. I'll simply copy/paste what I said above: "We [very reluctantly] tolerate the thousands of deaths from gun violence every year because we value the security that guns provide." This is not theoretical: 800,000-2,500,000 crimes are stopped each year (depending on which study you consult) by honest citizens with guns -- the vast majority of time without firing a shot. This goes right to what Phil said above -- what is the value of not being raped? This side of the equation is huge, and cannot be ignored. And, by the way, has nothing to do with fighting the government, which I agree is a long shot (if you pardon the expression).-rc

Posted by Ian, Camberley, UK on December 18, 2012:

I've said this elsewhere, and I'll say it here too. A significant fraction of the comments that I have seen on the net pitched against improved gun control can be paraphrased as "Improved gun control will not COMPLETELY SOLVE the problem, so let's not improve gun control despite the strong evidence that improved gun control will IMPROVE the situation." Or, to phrase the same thing slightly differently, "This is only a partial solution, and we would like a complete solution, so let's not use this partial solution."

An equivalent to this would be to say "Let's not make drink driving illegal because making drink driving illegal will not stop ALL road deaths". But I am sure everyone here thinks that having drink driving illegal -- and frowned upon in polite society -- is a good thing.

Please not that this particular British citizen is NOT saying you must give up all your guns. I would, however, gently suggest that it should be a little harder for the "wackjobs" to get their hands on many of the things that make mass killings easier, such as explosives, large knives, poisons and rapid-fire assault rifles. (Personally I am unsure why anyone not on active service with the military would need an assault rifle, but I am happy to admit that as I have no experience with living in the US I cannot expect myself to have all the answers as to what is or is not reasonable for Americans to own.)

Also, I strongly agree that more needs to be done -- over here in the UK as well as over there in the US, and everywhere else in the world for that matter -- to help those in need of assistance with their mental health.

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Absolutely strict gun control will greatly reduce several hundred needless deaths every year! No question whatever about it. But that only looks at one side of the equation: it will also greatly reduce the 800,000-2,500,000 crimes stopped each year (depending on which study you consult) by honest citizens with guns -- the vast majority of time without firing a shot. Against the hundreds not killed you must balance tens of thousands of women (and men) raped, assaulted, murdered, robbed, tortured, beaten, and otherwise victimized. This side of the equation is huge, and cannot simply be ignored. -rc

Posted by Ernest, Junee, Australia on December 18, 2012:

The right question IS to ask what's causing people to behave this way. I noticed one comment was about overcrowding, I suspect part of the answer is the "mental overcrowding" that goes on today in many of our societies. Not so much the physical pushing, but the mental pushing and shoving that goes on at work and in the media -- both news and entertainment. How to deal with it, I don't know.

As to the guns side. Here in Australia we used to allow people to own civilian grade firearms, then they all got banned. The result is that now the criminals who used to go about with unlawful cut down civilian grade semi-automatic rifles now go about with military grade full-auto weapons as they cost the same and the penalty is the same, and they are just so much more power for them. I know that two of the shootings we had here in Australia could have been less if other civilians were prepared to take on the criminals, but way too many turn and run because that's what they're taught now.

I agree with you that it's time to salute all the first responders who help out in these incidents, both the trained ones and the enthusiastic untrained helpers who hold a compress down when the medic says "Push on this here."

It's sad these incidents happen, but the types of weapons used and the access to them is not the issue at all. Good luck with getting that message to the law makers.

Posted by James in Perth, Australia on December 18, 2012:

I'm normally happy to read the commentary weigh up the arguments, agree or not and move on, but I feel this particular debate deserved a comment.

This is a very large and very emotive problem, but one that should be addressed with logic and no less that a 360 degree approach to its solution.

At the root, there is "people", and as stated numerous times amongst the comments of my peers here; you cannot legislate against stupidity.

What does that leave us with? Prevention or Cure. In my mind a possible "cure" would be to arm everyone to the teeth and let them all shoot themselves. We'd have to be able accept a fair amount of collateral damage, but at the end of the day, those smart enough to avoid a gun fight would be left standing and some massive lessons would be learned. Call it natural selection if you like. Or peace through superior firepower.

Let me be clear with everyone, this is NOT an acceptable solution as far as I am concerned.

So we are left with prevention.

Prevention would need to look at the root cause of the issue, people, and the process by which these people harm the public.

Here in Australia we have a robust (yet not perfect) Public Health Care system. Many improvements have been made, and many more need to be made before we can be sure we are identifying mental health issues early enough to treat them.

We have a massive focus on bullying & discrimination in schools, at home and in the work place. Common ads on the TV shout slogans like "To violence against women, Australia says no!" and "Drink and drive and you're a bloody idiot."

We do as well as most countries in the world (I have a number of friends in the Mental Health Care Industry) and better than many, but we have a long way to go. Regardless of how well we try to look after our population, there will always be those who "slip through the cracks" or develop issues later in life and are simply not identified and helped before they do harm.

So what else can we do to reduce the chances of this happening again?

I was in High School in Tasmania in 1996 when a man by the name of Martin Bryant climbed to the top of a tower at a historical site called Port Arthur with a semi-automatic rifle. He shot and killed 35 people and wounded 23. I can remember reading the list of casualties wondering if I would recognize any of the names. I was grateful I didn't, but that did not take away the devastation felt by the community, the state, the country and many families worldwide who had members present that day.

I believe it was within 2 days of the massacre, that our then Prime Minister John Howard announced sweeping changes to Gun Control Laws outlawing automatic and semi-automatic weapons and instigating a buy back scheme to reward people for handing in their guns. He has been quoted in saying that this was the single greatest achievement he had while Prime Minister.

The most important part of this action in my mind was that it sent out a message, "We will not tolerate these weapons becoming available deliberately or accidentally to someone prepared to use them for the cause of harm to others."

We will never stamp out completely people doing harm to others, but we can educate, medicate, rehabilitate and reduce the potential for harm through smart legislation and common sense.

There is no genuine reason (and no I don't consider "I just want one!" to be genuine) that a civilian would require an automatic rifle, hand gun, grenade launcher, flame thrower or any number of other weapons specifically designed for the harm of another human being. Semi-automatic rifles are borderline, but in the interests in public safety, when you ask the question "Is it essential? Who would require this to do legitimate business (Farmers, Pest Control etc) & Would their businesses significantly suffer from the removal of these tools? The answer is a resounding NO.

It is a requirement in Australia that if you wish to own a weapon, you need a license. Only certain types of weapons are allowed to be kept in the home. The more lethal the weapon, or the less related to legitimate use (i.e. handguns) the more rigorous the screening process prior to the weapon license being issued. In many cases, you are restricted to keeping your weapon stored at an approved facility (I.e. a gun shooting complex).

It is not a CURE, but it goes a long way towards prevention.

I feel it should be seriously considered in every country in the world. The US has arguably the greatest "public opinion influence" in the world at the moment (largely due to the level of publicity). Think on the fact that the actions you people and your elected officials take in the aftermath of this terrible event will assist in changing the attitudes of populations around the world.

This strikes to the heart of everything that you do and believe in Randy; Responsible, sensible actions taken by people to influence the people around them to THINK about the consequences of their actions BEFORE they act.

You are right, we need to ask the right questions, we need to be prepared to look at the whole solution, not just what we will find acceptable to "me".

It's time to take action.

Thanks for the enjoyable debate Randy, you have a massive influence amongst a small number of people and for that I am very grateful.

Keep up the good work!

Posted by Jordan, Los Angeles on December 18, 2012:

Perhaps a bit of terminology will help a few:

Automatic: fires repeatedly with one trigger pull. Also known as a "machine gun". Very highly regulated, almost never used in US crime. Can apply to either handguns or rifles, and a few shotguns.

Semi-automatic: fires one round with each trigger pull. May have large-capacity magazines. Sometimes confusingly called "automatic". Can apply to handguns, rifles or shotguns. Most pistols that you see in police or military movies are semi-automatic pistols.

Revolver: a "cowboy gun", a pistol with six rounds loaded in a circular pattern. Fires one round with each trigger pull.

For completeness: rifles and shotguns come in a number of additional styles, all requiring additional operations for each round fired.

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To clarify your last, rifles and shotguns can also be semi-automatic. -rc

Posted by Tom, Minnesota on December 18, 2012:

Why do so many of the those making comments here keep using the word automatic to describe a semi-automatic weapon? Are these folks oblivious to fact that there is a difference or are they deliberately fueling the call for a definition of assault weapon that is so broad that it will encompass most multiple-shot rifles and shotguns? People are beginning to get shrill about reviving the "Assault weapon" ban without knowing the difference. You called it, Randy: the wrong questions are being asked and the public wants something done right away so Congress will enact a fluff piece of legislation that won't make any difference in the long run because Prohibition won't work as long as the root cause is not repaired.

---

I think it's simple ignorance. They don't like guns, and pick up bits of terminology here and there and apply it to every situation they see. These are the people who say there will be "shootouts in the streets" if more people have guns, since that's what they've seen in Western movies. They don't know that when people take gun classes, the first thing they're taught (after the basic safety rules) is to AVOID situations where there's any chance they'll need a gun. They're in a poor position to argue the merits of any gun legislation. -rc

Posted by Robert, Texas on December 18, 2012:

I could make so many comments...about the confusion between automatic and semi-automatic, about the myth of "high powered" military weapons, about the feasibility of recovering even a fraction of the 250-300 million firearms present in civilian hands. Actually, I will comment on the last...consider that the people most likely to hand in their weapons are the people least likely to be a threat.

What I would like to point out is violence. Americans glorify violence, we relish it, we wallow in it. Not as an occasional grim necessity in the form of self defense or military action but as a solution, sometimes the first and only solution. And certain segments of our society take this to heart. The mentally ill, the impoverished and desperate. Violence is a way out, a way to be elevated.

I grew up around firearms. They were used for hunting, for target shooting, for protection, just in case. Like insurance or a fire extinguisher, not in the hope that they would be used but in the hope they wouldn't ever need to be.

The sound of gunfire, the smell of powder and cleaner, they bring back comforting memories of childhood, of my father telling me how the competition or the hunt went. In 50 years the only shooting victim I ever even heard about was an individual who, in an abundance of stupidity, managed to shoot himself in the foot.

I have friends who grew up in a different environment. One where gunfire happened every night, sometimes all night. One where gangs and drug dealers fought over turf. Where police and killers exchanged gunfire in the middle of neighborhoods. Where you could count deaths per day, not per week, per month or per year.

Killers kill for position, for profit, for a twisted sense of vengeance, honor or dominance, but they kill. With guns, knives, poison, explosives, fire...they kill. The most frightening of them all are intelligent people who kill without care for themselves...they can't be reasoned with, they can't be stopped short of their own demise. The world is full of methods to do violence. Eliminating a particular model of firearm, or type, or, somehow, all of them with a "whoosh" of magic doesn't eliminate the killer. Some of the worst mass killings in the US were committed by individuals without firearms...explosives and arson are just as deadly and random.

Consider what's wrong with the US, with us, that makes one set of people slaughter each other in an ever repeating cycle of violence while another set doesn't see a murder in a generation. Banning guns in places hasn't stopped the former. Firearm ownership rates near saturation doesn't prevent the latter.

Consider what causes a person to think their only way out to is to murder dozens of innocents and themselves. Consider all of the ways they could commit murder, then consider if it might not be easier and cheaper and infinitely kinder to help them. Help...not imprison, not stigmatize. The last thing we need to do as a society is drive mental illness back into the shadows, to force people to hide their problems for fear of being locked up, restricted, banned from certain jobs and activities.

Posted by Joe from Maryland on December 18, 2012:

The problem isn't simple, but the one thing that we never learn is that the quickest "solution" usually isn't a solution at all. After 9/11 the government did many things in the heat of the moment to show that they were acting. Very few of these decisions were great ones when you look back from the Patriot Act to the intelligence on Iraq.

Plenty of people have called this the 9/11 of school shootings, yet we aren't learning from our mistakes after 9/11. We're talking about passing almost unheard of legislation to restrict the freedom of American citizens here at home. The last time something like this happened was Prohibition and that didn't work out so well. Mandatory mental health screenings? Banning the ownership of items that our Constitution says we have express right to own? None of this is rational.

The Constitution isn't just a law to be changed as what is convenient changes. The guys who wrote it had just finished not only fighting to create this country, but for their very lives. If they had lost, every last one of the leaders would have been hung as traitors to the crown and every non-British citizen in the colonies would have suffered greatly. They didn't know what the future would bring, or how long their country would last, so they wrote something that says a lot without being specific about much other then peoples' freedoms.

The people who wrote the Constitution valued your rights and freedoms more then you ever possibly could. To them, every person who was considered a citizen under that document was more important then any government could ever be. The freedom of religion, of speech, of the press, of petition and assembly, and of association guaranteed by the first amendment are one of the many checks and balances built into the Constitution to keep the government from over-reaching. The right to own guns guaranteed by the second amendment is in case the first amendment doesn't work. It isn't to hunt, or to target shoot, or for self-defense. The founders of our country put that right in the Constitution because they wanted us to have the ability to resist the government if it oversteps its limits.

Yes, I am a gun owner. I do not have a semi-automatic pistol, an assault rifle, or any National Firearms Act items. I've never been a paying member of any firearms rights groups. I've never felt the need, because the ability to get what I need or want has always been there for me. Since all the gun ban talk started, I've joined the NRA as well as two state groups and I plan to purchase both a semi-automatic pistol and an assault rifle after the holidays just in support of the right to be able to do so. That's if I can even find anything by then. That isn't an understatement. Talk to some gun stores, there has NEVER been a buying frenzy like this in history.

Posted by James in Perth, Australia on December 19, 2012:

Interestingly, reading through the responses, it seems we have 2 or 3 different debates going on here. Maybe in order to move forward from this too and fro, there needs to be a distinguishing of the issue we are debating.

Are we debating people hurting people via the myriad of means available and what we can do about it? (I can only see us entering into a debate as to what "means" is worst bombs vs. guns vs. knives vs. cars vs. alcohol vs. drugs etc etc), or people hurting people with guns specifically and what can be done about that one part of the greater problem.

To try to address the whole issue at once is so great a challenge we'll only ever talk about it and never get anything decided let alone done about the issue. It's like the old saying goes; How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time.

Break the problem down to its constituent parts based on what is most relevant at the time and work on that before moving onto the next.

E.g. Road fatalities - Reduce national speed limits, blood alcohol limits, increase penalties, make cars safer, train people to drive better etc etc.

If guns are one of the common factors in all of these gun related shootings, lets take guns off the street, if that doesn't work then let's try something else. But for the love of the life of our fellow human beings, LETS DO SOMETHING OTHER THAN FEEL BAD ABOUT IT, DEBATE IT AND FORGET ABOUT IT TILL THE NEXT TIME! People are being harmed and killed through our inaction.

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The reason that there's confusion on what's being debated is that it's unclear what the real issue is. If we don't ask the right questions, we'll do incredibly stupid things that don't actually work, and make the problem worse. The idea of "JUST DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING!" ignores the ramifications and, indeed, very often makes things worse. Sit down and think, and discuss, and learn. -rc

Posted by James, Kirkland WA on December 19, 2012:

My problem is nomenclature: blaming the mentally ill for this crime lumps millions of non-violent mentally ill people with this mass murderer. Psychopath is preferable.

We all hope for better treatment of mentally ill people but lumping it with this crime does nothing to destigmatize mental illness.

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Actually, the term psychopath has long been out of favor. It was replaced by sociopath, and then "those with antisocial personality disorder". Why yes -- yes it does smack of a standard PC progression. But there you go. -rc

Posted by Joe, NY on December 19, 2012:

While it's easy to measure the carnage of a mass shooting, when we prevent one, we may never know it, and it isn't very dramatic to say 20 kids were not killed yesterday because we locked up someone who might have been planning a mass murder.

I think this is something we need to be aware of. As H.L.Mencken is reputed to have said, "There is always an easy solution to every human problem -- neat, plausible, and wrong."

Posted by Lindsey, Ottawa, On, Canada on December 19, 2012:

An article well worth taking a look at: The most violent country in Europe: Britain is also worse than South Africa and U.S.

It certainly backs up Randy's point about the acceptance of a violent culture as the real heart of the matter.

---

Tellingly, that 2009 article doesn't even have the U.S. in its Top 10 "League of Shame" chart, with data compiled by the European Commission an the United Nations. The UK is on top with 2,034 violent crimes per 100,000 residents (presumably per year). Surprisingly, Number 6 is Canada, with 935 crimes, and Number 10 is France, with 504. The U.S. is off the chart, with 466. -rc

Posted by Larry, Canton OH on December 19, 2012:

Scientific American reran a past article of the study of the mind of people that commit crimes like Columbine. It was written August 2007 and the conclusions are amazingly accurate for this latest crime. It is a great article to read but what really struck me was the closing paragraph in the article that I completely agree with:

The news media must take a stand as well. To make identifying with other school shooters more difficult, journalists and producers should focus less on the perpetrator, his deviant motives and the moment-by-moment unfolding of the deed -- and more on the consequences of the crime.

Posted by Nancy, Illinois on December 19, 2012:

Has anyone ever worked out the following statistic: Of the annual gunshots fired at a person in the United States, what percentage of those times is legitimate defense of life or property actually accomplished?

Defense is the main reason offered for why citizens should be permitted to carry handguns. I note many many reports of gang shootings, suicides, domestic murders etc., but never read "Alert Citizen Drew Concealed Pistol and Plugged Rapist in the Act," nor even of defense by threat as in "Armed Granny Holds Burglar at Bay Till Police Arrive." Surely amid all the senseless carnage, it would be of comfort at least to know of evidence that sometimes peoples' lives ARE saved by bullets from amateurs.

---

As noted above, the number of crimes stopped annually in the U.S. by citizens with guns is between 800,000 and 1,200,000. In the vast majority of cases, no shots are fired. It is a scandal that they're rarely reported in the news, but here are a couple of examples that I was roundly criticized for publishing. -rc

Posted by Stephen, Idstein Germany on December 19, 2012:

Here is another interesting point that I have not seen mentioned yet.

What about the desensitizing of the general public concerning violence. The movies are full of it, TV is full of it and video games are full of it. It's not the violence that was so demonized in the Bugs Bunny Road Runner hour. This is some serious kill them all and watch the blood and guts splatter all over the place.

While this is not a cause of violent behavior, it sure doesn't help in my opinion. Impressionable people may see this as saying "It's ok to slaughter a bunch of people".

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As noted in the previous essay, this was happening long before violent movies, TV shows, and video games. -rc

Posted by Przemek - New York City on December 19, 2012:

Are you sure that you're not using the same technique of deflecting the gun criticism as the NRA and others like minded use when defending guns? To immediately go back to 1927 bombing or argue that knife violence can be horrific is a truism and not pertaining to the horror of Newtown.

I think a serious discussion of this should include a comparison of what other countries have done in this area and see if concrete facts can sway arguments. For example, South Africa and Australia. Or even any comparison of gun violence between US and any other country with strict gun control laws. The evidence of less violence is there, but pointing that there's still violence makes your argument very week. Americans all to frequently invoke the special nature of the country and dismiss the experience of the rest of the world as irrelevant. I think it's time for us to open our ears and eyes to others and perhaps learn from them. Guns weren't invented in the US and people have been dealing with them a lot longer than the US has existed.

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Are you sure you're not using silly defenses that have nothing to do with my points? The 1927 bombing reference was to show that such carnage happened long "before violent movies". As noted above, the violent crime rate in the U.S. is far below South Africa and the UK, and we all know what the gun situation is in the UK. -rc

Posted by Bob in Oklahoma on December 19, 2012:

People are quick to point out places with strict gun laws as examples of how gun control works wonders. "Look at the UK," they say. "Look at Canada."

Look at Mexico. No citizen is allowed to own a gun larger than .380. Not even a 9mm. No carry permits. If you move, you have to get a permit to transport the gun to your new home. (Wiki)

And yet Mexico has a gun homicide rate almost 3 times that of the US.

So please, tell us all again about how strict gun laws will stop criminals.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on December 19, 2012:

Regarding the "Gun Buy-Back" programs in so many cities are an effort to remove illegal guns from the streets: turn in your weapon and receive $50, no questions asked. The problem is, virtually no one is turning in THEIR weapons. Those who do turn in weapons are stealing legal firearms from homes and making money from them. Far from removing illegal guns from the streets, the program is removing legal firearms from the homes, and rewarding burglary/theft. And the taxpayers enjoy the happy privilege of paying for such a boondoggle. The topic here is to THINK. Think, people, about the UNINTENDED consequences of instant, blanket solutions.

The basic concept of Dialectic Theory is that for every Thesis (premise), there is an Antithesis, which must collide and create a Synthesis (solution) which becomes the new Thesis. And the cycle continues. EVERY fix creates at least one new additional problem, often more than one. A solution is not enough. It must be a cost effective solution, meaning that the new problem is less costly (or problematic) than the old one. So often, that's not the case, but then the damage has been done. Which requires more work (another fix) to undo the new problem and STILL require yet another fix to solve the old problem. In other words, think your solutions THROUGH, past the fix. If it really were so simple, THIS problem would have been resolved many years ago. Simple answers won't work.

Posted by Richard, England on December 19, 2012:

In fact this article (it's three years old) has been discussed previously. The problem is that the definition of "violent crime" is not the same the world over. For example, in Britain, an affray is considered a violent crime, while in other countries it will only be logged if a person is physically injured. So a mugging that does not injure the victim in Britain is considered as "violent crime".

This leads to anomolies such as the comparison between Britain and South Africa, where, although the UK ranks above South Africa for all violent crime, South Africans suffer more than 20,000 murders each year -- compared with Britain's 921 in 2007. Presumably murder is not considered to be "violent crime" in SA.

Until the definitions for such things are consistent the world over, worldwide comparisons are meaningless -- although that does not stop special interest groups using them to support their arguments.

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You don't say which article you're referring to; there is more than one linked above, which I commented is from 2009. But I assume you mean this one, comparing the violent crime rates in various countries. You really want to propose that a street mugging isn't a "violent" crime? Sorry, but I can't believe anyone doesn't define that as violent; it absolutely is. Murder, too. -rc

Posted by John in Saskatoon on December 19, 2012:

Randy said:
Tellingly, that 2009 article doesn't even have the U.S. in its Top 10 "League of Shame" chart, with data compiled by the European Commission an the United Nations. The UK is on top with 2,034 violent crimes per 100,000 residents (presumably per year). Surprisingly, Number 6 is Canada, with 935 crimes, and Number 10 is France, with 504. The U.S. is off the chart, with 466. -rc

from Wiki
The reported US violent crime rate includes only Aggravated Assault, whereas the Canadian violent crime rate includes all categories of assault, including the much-more-numerous Assault level 1 (i.e., assault not using a weapon and not resulting in serious bodily harm)

It is like comparing apples and oranges, and as such you cannot compare the two. I am unsure what the UK considers to be "violent crime" either, I leave that up to the British to tell us.

Another statement of yours:
it will also greatly reduce the 800,000-2,500,000 crimes stopped each year (depending on which study you consult) by honest citizens with guns -- the vast majority of time without firing a shot. Against the hundreds not killed you must balance tens of thousands of women (and men) raped, assaulted, murdered, robbed, tortured, beaten, and otherwise victimized.

Canada has gun control, yet our homicide rate is one third yours, and we track more crimes as violent so we cannot measure that.

I think you have been sold a bill of goods, rape in the US in 2010 was 27.3/100,000 people, in Canada it was 1.7.

Randy, you said:
"We [very reluctantly] tolerate the thousands of deaths from gun violence every year because we value the security that guns provide."

I don't think firearms provide the security you think they do.

Let's move on to the 2nd Amendment, which states "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

Which part of Lanza's mother was "well regulated", she failed to protect herself (since her son shot her) and, by failing to protect her firearms, she failed to protect those 26 people at the school. Far too many Americans from my PoV see the second half of the sentence, but never the first half.

To sum up my arguments:
1) Homicide rates in the US are higher than Canada (which has gun control)
2) Rape rates are higher in the US than Canada
3) Violent crime statistics between Canada and the US cannot be compared due to different methods of tracking
4) Lanza's mother was not in a militia, failed to adequately protect herself and subsequently 26 others were shot.

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A "wiki" is software/site that allows for user-created articles. So, what wiki is important, and you don't provide a link. "I don't think firearms provide the security you think they do." One to two million crimes stopped per year is a lot of crime. Sorry you consider that so insignificant; I don't. That this number isn't broken down into which specific crimes is pretty immaterial. Yes, we have more rapes than Canada. It would obviously be much worse than it is if women didn't have a way to defend themselves; obviously, not all women carry guns. Those who don't are obviously much more likely to be victims. You also seem to think that if one person has her weapon turned on her, it's a failure of the entire constitution and must be scrapped. Luckily, you're not sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court, which has ruled the Second Amendment applies to individuals. Pit that one (extremely serious) failure, or even all such failures this year, against 1 to 2 million crimes prevented, and that's something we can live with. -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on December 19, 2012:

Responding to a couple points made repetitively here.

The first is that we should compare our country to other countries, but only in a limited view. Don't look at their problems that are actually worse than ours -- only at their lower gun violence. That's right, GUN violence, not just all of their violence. Strange that the U.S. is suffering so badly in comparison that we have more [legal] immigrants than ALL other countries in the world combined. And that each year, over 1 million of those immigrants work and study in order to become permanent citizens. Isn't it strange that SO many people from all those other countries continue to flock to the U.S. that is so "dangerous" that it puts their very lives at risk?

The second is comparing legal gun ownership in other countries, such as Israel or Switzerland, which mandate intense training and/or extreme limitations on owning guns. Apply that logic to any of our other rights. Speech? Yep, people want to limit our Freedom of Speech to only popular speech. Unpopular speech has no place in a free society [stated sardonically]. Or the Right to vote. All over the internet, there are comments that people should be required to pass an IQ test to vote. There are people with IQ's at 150 that still make boneheaded decisions at times. And the Poll Tax was meant to keep certain... undesirables (read Black)... from voting. And it was struck down as unConstitutional. A Right cannot have restrictions, or it's only a Privilege. The point is, as soon as anything bad happens, there is an immediate hue and cry to restrict freedoms and institute a tighter police state to ensure security. It does NOT prevent bad things from happening; it only shifts those responsible for it, to the government.

Oh, and as long as I'm at it, let's talk about crowding. Europe, being touted as a model at which we should aspire, has a total population of 600 million covering an area of 2.1 million square miles. Compared with the continental U.S at 310 million over 3.1 million square miles. Crowding is not the problem in the U.S.

Posted by Javier, Ottawa on December 19, 2012:

"I'll note that Honduras has much more stringent gun control than the U.S."

You'll also have to note Honduras has no institutions that can control gun control. You can pass all the laws you want, with no enforcement they are worth nothing.

Posted by Phil, Gilford NH on December 19, 2012:

I missed the previous post. I'd just like to make one point: To my knowledge, there is one nation in the world that has demonstrably solved the problem of maniacs attempting to massacre schoolchildren.

That nation is Israel, and Israel did it because after the Ma'alot massacre in 1974 in which 28 hostages (including 22 children) were killed and another 63 wounded, the Israelis looked at their dead children and swore, "We must never allow this to happen again."

So how did Israel do it?

They defended their schools. They started a program to place armed defenders in all of their schools -- staff, parents, grandparents, volunteers -- all of whom underwent special training, armed with concealed 9mm pistols. There has not been a successful attack against an Israeli school protected under this program since. There have been attempts, sure. They have ended very quickly.

Perhaps we should give it a try. It worked in Israel. There's no reason I'm aware of why it shouldn't work here. And speaking for myself, there are two things I am utterly sick of: Hearing about yet another slaughter of guaranteed-defenseless-by-law victims by some deranged sociopath, and then hearing that slaughter cynically exploited to support political/ideological goals that won't solve the problem.

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By "guaranteed-defenseless-by-law" I assume you mean "gun-free zones" -- even those with permits (meaning: vetted with background checks and passed required training) cannot carry a gun on school grounds. So if YOU were a crazed gunman trying to inflict as much terror as possible, isn't a "gun-free zone" THE most tempting target? And we're surprised that schools are the most-targeted mass murder location? -rc

Posted by Philo, Calif. on December 19, 2012:

I rarely think that there is a simple answer to complex problems. Both "let's take away all the guns" and "let's stop all the crazy people" are simple phrases that are very complex to execute.

For the first part, I think we need something between "let's take all the guns away" and "you can buy any gun you want with no control at your local gun show". Owning a gun is a right, but it also carries a big responsibility. It's hard to balance the two, but I think we need to do this.

For the second part, how do you find crazy people? We hear stories about killers where people didn't realize they were dangerous people. I personally know some people that act unstable but when you get to know them they wouldn't hurt anybody. Do you send everybody for a mental evaluation? Do you put up a website where people post their suspicions about their neighbors? It's not an easy job. Most attempts to fix this would have to involve huge privacy invasions on the part of people who may have problems and yet aren't killers.

Posted by Marty, Texas on December 19, 2012:

I grew up in Montana, which may have even more guns per capita than Texas. It was the talk of our town when a playmate and his 5 siblings were killed at home by their father with a rifle. We had rifles, shotguns and even a pistol in our own home. It was the 1960s, and there was never a mention of gun control. Even with all the gossip (or because of it?), as a 6 year old I knew that was not what guns were for. I learned to respect them as powerful tools, but have never feared them. I look around my current neighborhood, and am not confident the 8 yr old taking potshots at doves with a pellet rifle has that same respect. I KNOW the teens who want to try it also don't. Their bravado betrays them. Why the difference between then and now? I don't know. I sense a disconnect in the community -- we're all strangers. And no understanding between cause and effect (or right and responsibility). I find that even more threatening to democracy. Without responsibility, "rights" become anarchy and tyranny then seems "reasonable".

Posted by Melissa - Loveland, CO on December 19, 2012:

I grew up in a household where guns were not discussed. Because I knew nothing of guns, I was scared of them. I didn't understand why people would want a gun in their home, and as a result, I was very much for gun control. Then, I married a wonderful man who is a firm believer in our right to protect ourselves by owning and carrying guns. He has educated me about what it means to be a responsible gun owner, and I now understand why it would be so bad for the government to take away this basic constitutional right. (If they succeed in banning guns, what rights will we lose next?)

I think that a good number of citizens that are pro gun control are simply not educated enough, just like I was as a youngster. Instead of talking about how to get rid of guns, let's start educating the public about guns and responsible gun ownership.

We are all enraged by what happened in Newtown last week, and rightly so. But it is upsetting to me that the knee-jerk reaction is always to remove guns from the equation. I'd like to know, how many pro gun control citizens have ever had a gun pointed in their face? I'm here to tell you, when that happens, you'll wish you too were a responsible gun owner and had applied for your concealed carry permit! We have a right and a responsibility to protect ourselves and our families! (insert cliche: don't bring a knife to a gun fight!)

I so appreciate you sharing your views in your rational and educational way. I wish there was a way to make the people in the White House read these posts and really consider what you have said here. Hey, here's an idea...will you please run for President in the next election? You have my vote already!

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I'm not the politician type. -rc

Posted by James in Perth, Australia on December 19, 2012:

The reason that there's confusion on what's being debated is that it's unclear what the real issue is. If we don't ask the right questions, we'll do incredibly stupid things that don't actually work, and make the problem worse. The idea of "JUST DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING!" ignores the ramifications and, indeed, very often makes things worse. Sit down and think, and discuss, and learn. -rc

Accepted and agreed, so long as we ARE talking about it, and more importantly, doing so in a constructive manner with an outcome at the end. How many times has this debate been had and how many times has nothing meaningful changed?

Like I said: "We will never stamp out completely people doing harm to others, but we can educate, medicate, rehabilitate and reduce the potential for harm through smart legislation and common sense."

This may include making changes that make no difference or minimal difference. What it does do is start the public thinking. When thought & people leaders (hopefully they are the same) start making decisions and discussing the intent of the decision, the results and the changes that have to be made to these to improve the desired outcomes you start to change the thoughts of the masses, you start to instill a new attitude. Be human, accept you may make or have made mistakes in the past and ask for assistance from the population you represent. Then people like you and me will have a forum to stand up and give fresh perspective and new ideas and then things will start to change on a massive scale.

You have said in your original blog, the first move against road fatalities didn't work, but in making that move they made a statement: "We recognise something is wrong and we are prepared to act to change it."

I would argue the following 50 years of good action and bad have created an environment of social and governmental intolerance towards activities that resulted in death and injury on the roads. This environment within which the following generations have grown up has, in my mind, been more effective in reducing road accidents and increasing awareness than any single act done in it's name.

They made a move, they started a movement, they risked looking like fools and not achieving their desired outcome, but they made a move anyway.

It will not be a single act that will wipe out violence between people in the world, there will be a whole lot of different acts done to affect a change in attitude.

When enough people have the guts to lay down their arms and say Enough! This has to stop" and do it understanding they are putting themselves at risk THEN it will start to change. They will be role models and people leaders. The people who won't be get change will be those standing there with a gun hidden behind their backs saying "You first." or "Not yet!" or "Go blame that person, problem, country, attitude over there."

Millions of Australians made the same decision for the good of their neighbours in the 90's. It IS possible and it DOES have an impact.

If you are unsure of what works, look for countries that have done it in the past. I think it's Holland and Finland that have some of the highest gun ownership numbers in the world (4 times that of Australia, yet still only about a 3rd of that in the US) yet have 1/20th (or so) of the Homicide by firearms of the states. What are they doing so right?

Change starts with you and me and our attitudes. Our governments are OUR elected leaders and should represent OUR wants and needs. If they don't VOTE THEM OUT. Unless WE want this enough to stop and make a change, WHY would they make any "unpopular" decisions and do themselves out of a job and a large pension.

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I do think the argument "Now is not the right time to talk about this" is ridiculous, which is why I started the dialogue here. Yes: yes it is the right time, and in fact it has always been the right time. And indeed, you're asking a lot of the right questions. -rc

Posted by Nancy, Illinois on December 19, 2012:

Regrettably, I'm much better at inventing thought experiments than at offering guaranteed solutions, so here goes:

Obviously there's no way to accomplish this, but imagine if it were possible to turn every gun in the country instantly and irrevocably pastel pink, decorated with painted flowers and glitter and cute bunny rabbits. Something tells me that the people using firearms to defend their homes from burglars and their persons from assault would continue doing so at the same rate as now.

But for gang members, armed thieves, and anyone who now brandishes a macho weapon to make himself feel like a Tyrannosaur, I bet most of the fun would fade right out the power trip of terrorizing others.

If only ... But just running the thought experiment ought to invite a new perspective on the problem.

Posted by Phil - Quakertown, PA on December 19, 2012:

Comparing British violent crime to American violent crime is useful, even if not a apples-to-apples comparison because of different definitions.

But it's a far worse error to aggregate all American crime and attribute it to "America, where guns are easy to obtain and carry". In fact, the 300+ million Americans do not live in a homogeneous statutory environment. The majority of Americans seem to be concentrated in urban areas, where crime is rampant but guns tend to be restricted. The lax gun laws (the Constitutional gun laws) in the suburban and rural areas are associated with low crime.

So in fact, a lot of those rapes and robberies and murders in America took place in the District of Columbia or cities like Chicago or states like New Jersey, where the barriers to gun ownership are substantial.

Saying that guns don't equal less crime is like saying that the murders of unarmed people in gun-free school zones is proof that armed citizens are ineffective.

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Not only are the statutory environments differing across the country, the culture is, too. Heck, some Americans can't even understand other Americans' speech, due to heavy accents! -rc

Posted by Rod, Colorado on December 19, 2012:

After reading and skimming many of the posts regarding this subject, I am only seeing a pattern addressing mental health and some type of gun control. What I am not seeing is anyone addressing the social changes that have taken place as a result of removing God from our schools and public places which was clearly NOT the intention of our forefathers, elimination of citizenship (morality) classes from our schools, elimination of teaching the constitution and real American history (not "revised" history), elimination of the pledge of allegiance from our schools, not one word about exposing young children to extremely violent movies, television shows and video games. I certainly am no expert in this arena but I can tell you that unless you address all of the social changes as well as mental health and gun control issues; not to even mention the terrorism potential for attacking schools, this problem will never be stopped. All I can say is God help us if we don't wise up!

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My take on this is I thought the Christian view was, God is all-knowing, all-seeing, and present in all places. How interesting you think people can shoo Him out some doors. Dare I even suggest that's blasphemous? -rc

Posted by Phil, Gilford NH on December 20, 2012:

Mike in Dallas made good points about gun buyback programs, but missed two important ones.

The first is that a lot of the time, the people running these gun buybacks don't actually know what they're looking at. There are plenty of documented cases in which people have successfully "turned in" broken guns, BB-guns, non-functional replica gun models, decorative "wall-hangers" that don't even have a firing mechanism, even Nerf gun toys.

The second, probably worse, problem is that these gun buybacks are invariably "no questions asked", and no records kept. And it is known and documented that criminals have used gun buybacks to untraceably-to-them get rid of stolen guns or guns used in crimes, while getting cash back for it.

Gun buy-backs are a bad, bad idea.

Posted by Steve (Edmonton, AB) on December 20, 2012:

Lots of well thought-out and thought-provoking comments by many people; a good read!

To me, a few things stand out:

1. gun-related mass killings have happened in many countries, including those with greater gun control and better safety nets (e.g. Norway); *however* the USA has a disproportionate share of mass killings worldwide (15 of the 25 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place in the United States.)

2. it's not just about gun-related mass killings; it's about gun-related killings broadly, and the US’ numbers are far higher than any other civilized, industrialized country (no, Honduras does not meet the criteria)

3. one cannot stop a madman or group of madmen from carrying out a heinous act if they're well-prepared and are willing to die for it. however, one can and should try to reduce the frequency of such events; i.e. make it harder for them

4. we should focus our attention on preventing the most-preventable deaths, not on preventing a re-occurrence of the most recent event, esp. of the ones that garner the most attention and outrage; i.e. maybe effort is best directed toward reducing other types of deaths?!

Randy, you've mentioned a few times about the greater threat that large chemical bombs pose. As far as I know, there have been 2 significant ones in the USA: the 1927 one at a school and the Oklahoma City event. Maybe there are others? Because such an act requires a lot of planning, time and expertise, and because the FBI and others now keep a closer track of fertilizers and other bomb materials, I believe that this threat is not as high as you suggest.

Re the comparison of violent crimes worldwide… yes, this is hard to do because of different definitions of "violent crime". That Daily Mail article compares apples and oranges when it shows US far down the list and with twice the rate of crimes as Canada. Here are two useful refs:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_Canada#United_States “Historically, the violent crime rate in Canada is lower than that of the U.S. and this continues to be the case.”
http://web4.uwindsor.ca/users/m/mfc/41-240.nsf/0/10ff8b04ff3a317885256d88005720f6/$FILE/ATT8BNDV/0110185-002-XIE.pdf

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Only two bombings have been mentioned on these two pages. There have been many, many more; the World Trade Center being the most well-known (and indeed, the 9/11 attacks qualifying too). IEDs and car/truck bombs in other countries don't just disappear because they didn't happen in the U.S., either. -rc

Posted by Ray, Virginia on December 20, 2012:

I've been reading your thoughtful discussions about this issue and must say that I am firmly behind your approach about the tool versus the wielder.

As a point to consider about the mental illness portion of the discussion, my ex-wife (with whom I still have friendly relations) highlighted an issue a couple of years ago. She is an oncology nurse and recounted that with the reduction in funding for mental health support, more and more patients with mental illness issues were being released into their own custody.

She also noted that there is an obvservable relationship with these patients, in that they are primarily drug abusers -- primarily cocaine and heroin. They also exhibit both bipolar and schizophrenic traits. It thus makes it hard to diagnose if the drug use caused the mental illness or the mental illness drove them to use drugs to "self-medicate". In either case, the medical professionals at her hospital find themselves in a dilemma. What do I treat? It usually comes down to what am I budgeted and authorized to treat.

Great stuff! Wonderful Socratic discussions! I'm keeping my paid subscription.

Posted by John, Saskatoon on December 20, 2012:

1) Randy said: A "wiki" is software/site that allows for user-created articles. So, what wiki is important, and you don't provide a link

You are correct, here is the citation:
http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85f0035x/85f0035x2001000-eng.pdf

Page 6

2) Randy said: One to two million crimes stopped per year is a lot of crime.

Citation please, you have used these numbers many times, but if you linked to them I must have missed it.

3) Randy said: Yes, we have more rapes than Canada. It would obviously be much worse than it is if women didn't have a way to defend themselves; obviously, not all women carry guns. Those who don't are obviously much more likely to be victims.

Where is your evidence that there would be more rape with less firearms? Most are done not by strangers but by family members or acquaintances, which means that they either know where the guns are, or they have access to the very same firearms.

4) Randy said: You also seem to think that if one person has her weapon turned on her, it's a failure of the entire constitution and must be scrapped.

Please don't put words in my mouth, I have never talked about banning all firearms, I have talked about controlling them (smaller clips, better restrictions on who can own them, gun lockers, trigger locks). The fact is, you are less safe in the US than in other first world countries with gun control.

5) You are correct with one thing, the US does need better mental health care, but you have to pay for it somehow, and if you are getting better mental health care, the person needing it will probably be unable to pay, so the country has to look at socialised medicine (Canadian or one of the European models). I think that will be hard to do as well.

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I numbered your points so replies will correlate easily. 1) Thanks. The great part of that is it's from a government agency (Statistics Canada), the bad part is it's quite old (published 2001, so obviously data are from even earlier). But thanks for that.

2) There is a link above on the first reference, though it merely states it's from a book by an academic, which is here. The latest edition is 2005 -- newer, but still a bit long in the tooth, especially considering the upswing in both gun ownership and carry permits in the past 7 years.

3) I cannot believe that none of the 1-2 million crimes prevented each year do not include rapes.

4) My conclusion was easily inferred from your words. Your stated "fact" is not at all factual: that's your opinion. Mine differs, and 1-2 million crimes/year stopped by guns being far larger than the number committed with guns backs that up.

5) Conservative Americans indeed have a weird and irrational fear of "socialized" medicine, instead trusting for-profit corporations to take care of them. (Sure corporations have a heart, since after all, they're people!) The irony of protest signs reading "Keep Socialism Out of Medicine, and Keep Your Hands Off My Medicare!" is not lost on those of us with the ability to think. -rc

Posted by Tony in Japan on December 20, 2012:

Haven't had a chance to read all the comments today, (worked late), but in response to your response to me;

>I see a direct analogy
Good, we agree in principle.

>between your "We tolerate [I would say: even ignore] the [tens of] thousands
I was writing from the perspective of someone living outside the US: mileage may vary, as they say.

>" This is not theoretical: 800,000-2,500,000 crimes are stopped each year (depending on which study you consult) by honest citizens with guns -- the vast majority of time without firing a shot. This goes right to what Phil said above -- what is the value of not being raped? This side of the equation is huge, and cannot be ignored.

This, for reasons I will not even dare to speculate upon, does not make it into the mainstream media. In order for the pro-gun lobby to get people to understand their viewpoint, they must overcome this hurdle. I do not know how they should do this, but I would venture that blaming the mainstream media will achieve little. Perhaps admitting that guns are a "necessary evil" more than a "fundamental right" would win a little more sympathy.

>And, by the way, has nothing to do with fighting the government, which I agree is a long shot (if you pardon the expression).-rc

For that, I award you a cushion. But you would have to have lived in Japan to understand that. !-)

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At least it sounds good! :-)

You are absolutely correct that the other side of the equation -- guns being used to stop crime -- is not covered well in the mainstream media, which I noted way back in 1998 (and was attacked for daring to say it). That is a failure of the "pro-gun" side, and my guess is, they would grumble that it's due to the media tending to be dominated by liberals, who are generally anti-gun. If that's true (and it probably is, at least in part), then it's a hard problem to overcome without spending a lot of money. -rc

Posted by Amy in Nebraska on December 20, 2012:

Thanks for these two essays. I've tried to read most of the comments and your responses. I am very unfamiliar with guns, so I'm wary about the level of misinformation flying around now. Do you or other commenters have suggestions for reputable online resources to learn about guns and actual existing regulations (e.g. terms like automatic, semi-automatic, assault, rapid fire seem important, but I don't know the distinctions!) What explanations I'm seeing are either not intended for the uninitiated, or are too vitriolic to be helpful. Thanks!

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I don't know resources off-hand, but I'll bet other readers will have suggestions, so check back for more comments later (or subscribe to comments for this entry at the bottom of the page). Two quick caveats: there is no good definition for "assault weapon", and what's true in one state might be completely different in others. Just one for-instance: in California it's illegal to have a loaded gun in your car in reach of passengers -- a Fish & Game regulation to reduce illegal hunting. (Of course, having a permit supersedes that, but permits are very hard to get in California.) So I was very surprised when I moved to Colorado, and learned that your car is considered an extension of your house, and you're most definitely allowed to have loaded guns in your car, even without a permit. That kind of thing, of course, is just one of the reasons people aren't well informed about guns. -rc

Posted by Phil, Gilford NH on December 20, 2012:

Amy in Nebraska: Honestly, the best advice I could give you would be to open the phone book, find a decent size gun store, go to the store, and say, "I don't know anything about guns or gun laws, but I want to learn. What do I most need to know, and where can I learn it?"

You will almost certainly find that the majority of gun owners will be more than willing to answer any questions you have.

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Not all gun owners are well informed, and she wants to be sure to get straight info. When you don't know much, it's hard to evaluate whether someone is actually knowledgeable, or improperly self-confident. But indeed, a local store is a good place to start. -rc

Posted by Dirk in Louisiana on December 20, 2012:

Sigh! There are so many issues flying around here that making an exhaustive comment on each of them would be a dissertation. So I'll try to make it short and I'd ask people not to be too nit-picky about minutia and focus on the core.

0) There is one fundamental assumption that I have and that I think many but not everybody here shares: if there are fewer guns, there are fewer gun deaths. If you don't share this assumption, a lot of what I write won't make sense.

A secondary assumption is that we don't have to prevent large-scale sociopathic violence 100% (that's probably impossible), but if we can make it hard enough that it is either so difficult to do that most people just can't do it, or at least make it take significantly longer to prepare, so that there are more chances to detect the preparations or discourage the perpetrator enough that he/she gives up, it is worthwhile to do it.

1) "I need my guns to defend myself against the government"

Not happening. Look at Syria and how well their abundant (fully-automatic) Kalashnikovs are helping them against a government whose military might is puny compared to the one of the US. If the government wants to get you, they will. Fortunately they usually don't have a reason to want to.

2) "Responsible vs. non-responsible gun owners"

I fully and totally agree, responsible gun owners are not a problem. So show me a test that lets me tell one from the other (and make it automated please to detect when he/she goes from one to the other because of being fired/dumped/drunk/etc., so I can put it in their gun safe), and I'll be happy to lobby for giving a free gun to every responsible owner. Until then I'd feel a lot safer with fewer guns around.

3) "If you take the guns they will use bombs/poison gas/biological weapons..."

Contrary to what the abundance of bomb-making recipes on the Internet seems to indicate, making bombs is not that easy. In the last 6 months alone there have been two attempts to bomb German railroad stations that failed because the bombs just didn't explode. They could have, they were close, but there are a lot details that you need to get right to make it work. Which means tests and lots of opportunities for people to get suspicious. The same is true for biological/chemical weapons. The basics might be doable, but making an effective weapon is actually hard (or all the despots and terrorists of the world would have gotten them long ago). Guns on the other hand just work out of the box you buy them in.

4) "It makes no sense to restrict certain types of guns, they can all be used to kill people"

Apparently Lanza fired more than 100 bullets in less than the ~10 minutes that it took the police to arrive on the scene, and killed himself as he heard them coming in. I don't want to imagine the carnage he would have caused if he had had more time. Without a semi-automatic rifle and large-capacity magazines (I've seen 30 rounds mentioned), he would not have been able to do that. I'm trying to come up with a legitimate situation (hunting/self-defense) that requires these capabilities. I can't. And if you think it doesn't make a difference how many people die, I'm sure every single Sandy Hook parent whose child could still be alive would disagree.

5) "One to two million crimes stopped per year is a lot of crime."

I'll see your answers.com and raise you a DOJ: Average annual number of victimizations in which victims used firearms to defend themselves or their property, Total: 82,500 (from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/ascii/hvfsdaft.txt). Yes, this is old data (1987-92), but it just shows that there are lies, damn lies and statistics, and I wouldn't put all my trust in any of those. How many people do you know that have prevented a crime using a gun? How many people do you know that have hurt themselves or others with one?

6) "...won't solve the actual problem: angry people wanting to take their rage out on others."

I agree that's the actual problem, but I'm afraid I'm not an optimist like you are, Randy: I don't think there is a solution to solve that problem. There have always been angry people wanting to take their rage out on others all throughout history, and there always will be. I agree with you that it would be great if we would have a better health system that takes better care of people with mental problems, but as others have said, there are a lot of fine lines that you need to dance around to protect the innocent here, and without a Minority Report-style psychic police force there will always be cases where somebody goes through the system unnoticed until he/she snaps. I'm afraid we as a society will have to deal with this. But I think what we can and have to do is control the amount of damage that is caused by these people.

Which brings us to one of the core points of the discussion: gun regulations. I don't want to discuss the whole issue of whether you need guns to defend yourself, as we will have to agree to disagree on this one. If you feel safer with a gun, please keep it. But I'm not sure I understand why people are so adamantly against limitations on the kinds of guns they can have. As you say in many cases just having a gun deters the attacker, and no shots are fired. So even if you need to shoot, a single bullet would be enough. To account for misses I'll give you two, and because it's Christmas I'll double it to 4. The same is true for hunting. Which hunter needs more than 4 shots in a magazine? So why not:

- limit magazine size to 4 (better 2 or 3)
- ban semi-automatic weapons. If you need to cock the hammer it limits the speed of shots enough to reduce killing sprees, but not enough to disable self-defense.

I also agree with some other comments that better required education, mandatory background checks and time delays (sorry gun shows), requirements on keeping guns locked at all times and limits on the amount of ammo you can have are sensible and helpful, so I'm not going to talk about it. It's going to be difficult to enforce all this, no doubt, but if we can prevent the next one or the one after that, that's good enough to make it worthwhile in my book.

So I'm curious on arguments against those regulations. I see a lot of people crying 'they want to take our guns away', but I haven't seen anybody actually propose that. Which specific freedoms are limited or disabled by these regulations?

Note that 'I want to have one' doesn't count here. Thanks to many years of action movies and video games if I had a choice I would like a suppressed MP7 for myself. But if that means I have to be scared every day that somebody will use one of those in my son's kindergarden class, I'll gladly live without it.

Posted by Jim in Tennessee on December 20, 2012:

The real issue starts at a young age. Children are habitually allowed to get away with things, they are spoiled. On top of that, the government isn't on your side in discipline. When they grow up (figuratively), they don't know how to handle adversity and lash out. The normal response to lashing out is to get out of the way, to not engage and to not 'show your teeth'. They are reinforced that lashing out and bullying is tolerated, and the idea grows. Later on, they come into contact with those who are not tolerant and the only way they can see to win the situation is, well, to get a weapon.

It's a behavior issue at heart, not necessarily a mental illness, but it is a mental health problem. We need judges and lawmakers who understand this, and fit the punishment to the crime. We need people like Randy in Washington who can see the problem, and are willing to fix it. We don't need more personalities in our government, we need thinkers and doers. It's not intended to be a popularity contest; generally, the most popular are the very people doing or condoning the bad behavior, because they can and have got away with it. It comes a lot easier to them.

Posted by Bob in Oklahoma on December 20, 2012:

Amy, the big problem is that some terms can be used interchangeably.

The basic idea is that "semi-auto" means that every time you want the gun to go bang, you have to pull the trigger. One shot per pull of trigger.

"Full-auto" or "automatic weapon" refers to a firearm that will shoot as long as it has ammunition and the trigger is pulled. But some people use "automatic" to refer to a gun that is actually only semi-auto.

A military weapon like the M-16 is called "select-fire" because it can be set to fire automatically, or semi-automatically.

Any weapon capable of automatic fire has been controlled under the National Firearms Act of 1934 ("NFA"), which was amended by the "Gun Control Act of 1968" and legislation in I think 1986. It basically costs you $200 per weapon as well as an extensive background check by the BATF for each weapon purchased under this law. Some states ban full-auto weapons.

Randy is right about "assault weapon." The term is politically charged, and not used by the military. Legal definitions of the term vary widely.

This is one case where I'd stay away from Wikipedia, as the definitions there are probably edited often and badly, especially now. The NRA and National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) will have good FAQs that should help you.

Posted by Vegard, Norway on December 20, 2012:

Usually I agree with you, but in this case I think you're missing it. You're not barking up the wrong tree entirely, but you seem to forget the rest of the trees in the forest.

You're right that there will be killers anyway, but you're totally wrong on assuming that all potential killers will commit their crimes regardless of weapon. You have failed to present any valid arguments to support that assumption.

Weapons DO kill, not just people. Guns kill by lower the threshold for murder and increasing the striking range. They make death less "up close and personal". In short, they make death more convenient and easier on the killer. If there are less firearms available, I have no doubt there will be fewer murders.

The other issue I feel you're missing is mentality. My country has one of the highest guns-per-capita counts in the world, yet there are very few murders. And only a few of those are shootings. 2011 was a big exception, more on that later.

Why? Because in Norway, most weapons are either military or hunting weapons. The rest are mainly sports and recreational weapons owned by active members of a gun club. Carrying a weapon in a public place is unacceptable. Even the police does not carry, at least not yet.

The common factor: All of the mentioned gun owners are organized in some sort of community, and ALL have received mandatory and proper training. And all of them are lisenced gun owners.

That's the key. Training AND gun control.

One fact remains: Yes, violent and organized criminals DO arm themselves. But these are few and far between. You are far less likely to become a victim of random violent crimes, than a mentally disturbed Joe with a gun.

Even here, you can't escape a lunatic on a mission. The 2011 bombing in Oslo and massacre on Utoya by Behring Breivik proves that. No amount of control can stop someone who stays off the radar. However, this was a politically motivated and calculated crime that took months of planning. Most shootings are not.

The question is: Which is worse? The chance of meeting a desperate and armed criminal, the odd chance of encountering a world class terrorist with an agenda, or the fact that anyone you meet in public can be armed, void of morals, and/or mentally disturbed?

I'd say the latter.

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Your premise is flawed: I don't say that "all" killers will always choose another weapon and kill anyway, I say that this is a likely scenario, as we have seen in China in recent years. I'm unclear what your last apples/oranges/pears question means, too. What does "desperate" mean in this context, and why limit it to that? Do you have a fire extinguisher? I do too, that's rational. Consider that it it's MUCH more likely that I will encounter an armed criminal (desperate or not) wanting to do violence upon me or those near me than to have a fire in my home. Yet it's not rational to want to defend against that more-likely scenario? "The question" is, why? -rc

Posted by Phil - Quakertown, PA on December 21, 2012:

I'd like to respond in a general way to "Dirk in Louisiana", whose arguments seem thoughtful and well-written, but could equally be used to deprive Americans of pretty much any right, including having children, travel, choosing our own meals, drinking alcohol (again), picking our own video games and movies and books, skiing...almost any activity except breathing. Come to think of it, breathing generates greenhouse gases.

True, we don't know who will someday use a gun to defend herself, and who will use a gun to shoot up a school; not with absolute certainty. Although the Newtown shooter and the Aurora shooter and the guy that shot Giffords and the mall shooter Sylvia Seegrist and the Virginia Tech shooter were all known to even casual acquaintances as dangerously unbalanced, we can't know 100% who else might snap some day.

But we can use EXACTLY that argument to strip every other right from Americans. Some parents will starve their children or molest them or beat them or turn them into crazed killers some day, so we should put the government in charge of who reproduces and who doesn't. Every day, lots of drunks get behind the wheel of a car and kill people, EVERY DAY, so we need to restrict the kinds of cars statistically used by most drunks, probably starting with pickup trucks, because nobody really needs a high-capacity vehicle like a pickup. And don't get me started on motorcycles, who really NEEDS a risky motorcycle?

Look at the leading causes of death in America, accidental and intentional. "Assault weapons" don't even make the top 10 list. What kills us, what should the nanny govt take charge of for our own good? Heart disease: 599,413 deaths per year; Cancer: 567,628; Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 137,353; Strokes: 128,842; Accidents (unintentional injuries): 118,021; Alzheimer's: 79,003; Diabetes: 68,705; Influenza and Pneumonia: 53,692; Kidney diseases: 48,935; Suicides: 36,909.

"Assault rifle" deaths are so rare that they don't even get their own FBI category, they are lumped in with "rifles and shotguns", and as a cause of homicide they kill fewer people than "hands & feet". In 2011, "hands & feet" were used to kill 728 people. Rifles of all types (including hunting rifles, target rifles, semi-automatic rifles, .22 caliber rifles) were used to kill 323 people, shotguns (usually pump shotguns) were used to kill 356 people. Military-style rifles would be a small percentage of the 323 rifle deaths, so you have a much greater chance of being killed by an unarmed attacker than by anyone using an "assault rifle".

Banning boxing and karate and gyms would probably save more lives than another assault weapon ban; there's a reason why prisoners come out of jails with a characteristic muscular build. Ban power lifting. It's for the children.

America is premised on a presumption of responsibility and with "freedom to act" as the default condition. When the standard is that the govt refuses us permission because someone "might" abuse that permission, the right becomes a license, to be bestowed or withheld at the whim of our rulers. And make no mistake, the elected officials and their unelected bureaucrats will no longer be public servants, they will be our "rulers".

Posted by Phil, Gilford NH on December 21, 2012:

Quakertown Phil nailed it. If we can be denied one right because we might abuse it, why can't we be denied another? And the next step is, we have no free speech, because we might express a hateful opinion or reveal something of "national security" importance (which, these days, is practically anything). Or perhaps we have no right of protection against warrantless search and seizure, because we might have something prohibited in our possession. Or we lose the right against self-incrimination, because we might have actually committed a crime. (Of course, these days it's a Federal felony to even unknowingly make a false statement to any Federal official, even if you honestly believed it to be true, accurate and complete.)

Posted by Vegard, Norway on December 21, 2012:

I may not have been clear, Randy. We have very different starting points. I assumed you would catch that.

In my part of the world, only a few criminals with violent intentions from the start carry firearms. Most people, including your average criminal and the police, doesn't. That is a good thing, even if the NRA tries to tell you otherwise.

You're not likely to encounter an armed criminal here. Certainly not often enough to warrant your fire extinguisher analogy. The point is, what you call a "more likely scenario" than a home fire is a "far less likely than winning the national lottery scenario" in my part of the world.

That's my starting point, and I'm bold enough to assume it's close to your desired ending point. I DO understand that the current situation and weapon culture in the US is very different.

As a sidenote: Even at equal odds, I think your fire extinguisher comparison is flawed. A fire extinguisher is designed to make a dangerous situation less likely to escalate. A gun simply isn't.

Easy access to the tools of the trade cannot be dismissed as a contributing cause to violent crimes. One of many. What's more, it's the part of the problem that can be addressed in a relatively short timespan. Every other measure I can think of will take much longer.

I started by saying you're not barking up the wrong tree entirely. You're right that if you want less crime and mental cases, the solution is to address the social problems that cause them in the first place.

But that's a huge task. It will probably take generations to complete if it's possible at all.

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Of course we have different starting points. That's the whole idea here. I'm wondering if it's true that Norway doesn't have criminals who have armed themselves -- with a knife, a club, their fists, or other weapons; guns are not the only things that criminals use. All such weapons are lethal, especially if you're smaller than they are, or they have experience in using such weapons. When the victim has a gun and is properly trained in how to use it, you better believe that it can help stop that crime from "escalating"! It is interesting that your "starting point" is so far out there that you can't see this easily. -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on December 21, 2012:

Phil-Quakertown stated it eloquently. Additionally, there's some lamenting that the press fails to give coverage to instances where firearm possession actually saves a life, rather than take it. But the reason is that those incidents are local news rather than national news. Something only makes national news when it's SO unusual that it begs such attention, such as a mass shooting. Of course, constant media editorials against guns does make it sound that the 4th Estate covers only harmful incidents involving guns, but there is [minimal] coverage of the opposite. But there is daily coverage in newspapers across the US where firearms have been used to protect ordinary citizens. I could print them, but space does not permit.

Years ago, I worked at Purdue University. In the little town of Lafayette, Indiana, there were daily reports of home burglaries. Reading the newspaper, one would believe that Lafayette was the burglary capital of the world. Not true; the population alone puts a lie to that. But, being a tiny community, there was very little else to print for the news, so it was the only thing left, making it sound worse than it was.

The national news does not report mass shootings because they happen everyday or even every week. They ARE unusual. They ARE rare incidents. What makes them seem more common is all the attention focused upon them.

Whether to eliminate a product because it might be misused is to ignore the benefits of that product's other uses. To eliminate a Right because someone might abuse it is to ignore the suffocating police state that would result. To take a highly unusual event and react as though it were an everyday occurrence is to restrict all, or most, everyday occurrences that we take for granted and enjoy.

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I dispute that a gun's ONLY purpose is to kill. Most crimes that are prevented by use of a firearm are prevented without that firearm even being fired. It did not kill, maim, wound, or create pain. Some aren't even loaded! Its purpose then is to focus attention. Even to threaten (and when it's a counter-threat to a criminal, such a threat isn't only legal, but moral and ethical). But when it's effective when not activated (fired) in the vast majority of instances, I just don't find it accurate to say its "only purpose is to kill." -rc

Posted by Jim in Tennessee on December 21, 2012:

Reading through some more of these comments, a thought came to my head (actually spurred by the mention of gunless school zones, then the mention of Israeli schools having a 'neighborhood watch' type of solution, my next thought was, why not give the students guns, stupid I know, but gave birth to my next thought). Why not limit the age people can own guns? We do it with cigarettes, we do it with alcohol. As we know, the age limit isn't the most effective solution to those problems, but would be easy to implement as an interim solution until the problem can be decided on. I think 25 would be a good age limit.

I think an arguable amount of maturity should be required for gun-ownership. I have never owned a gun, but now that I have family, and considering I had a break-in within the last couple of years, a gun is something I'm pushing for. When I was younger, I had some anger issues, and thus the reason I never wanted a gun. Now my situation has changed, and my disposition has changed. Back then, I didn't want a gun for fear I would be tempted to use it. Now I want a gun because I'm afraid I might need to use it.

I think an age limit might actually work over time.

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There are already age limits for buying guns (IIRC, in most states it's 18 for long guns, 21 for handguns), but a parent can buy guns for their younger kids, for instance. If you do buy a gun, please get some basic training from a qualified instructor. Just like when buying a car, you're not automatically qualified to use it safely just because you're above that age. -rc

Posted by James, Regina, SK, Canada on December 21, 2012:

I've read this entire page and the last one as well, and here are a few things that stood out for me:

James in Perth:

They made a move, they started a movement, they risked looking like fools and not achieving their desired outcome, but they made a move anyway.

It will not be a single act that will wipe out violence between people in the world, there will be a whole lot of different acts done to affect a change in attitude.


When enough people have the guts to lay down their arms and say Enough! This has to stop" and do it understanding they are putting themselves at risk THEN it will start to change. They will be role models and people leaders. The people who won't be get change will be those standing there with a gun hidden behind their backs saying "You first."
or "Not yet!" or "Go blame that person, problem, country, attitude over there."

This was, to me, the most compelling thing I read on all these pages. The problem, to me, seems to be escalation. If more people have guns, then more people are going to feel the need to have guns themselves, and if more people start getting more effective guns, then more people are going to feel the need to have those guns themselves, with the end
result being that practically everyone has a semi-automatic weapon in their home (or one for everyone living there).

There needs to be a way to de-escalate. Why can't people be peaceful and trusting instead of paranoid about the weird guy next door, the brown guy with the turban, the terrorists overseas, the government imposing a new "freedom-restricting" law? When I leave my house every day I trust that the government has the proper system in place to make me as safe as possible and I trust my fellow citizens to not have a latent interest in violently harming other people, including myself.

The idea of being in a society where everyone is so scared that they need to have a gun to protect themselves or to have on hand in case they are in a store when an armed robbery occurs is just so foreign to me, and, I imagine, to most non-Americans. (it reminds me of the "socialized health care" debate: Does every other civilized nation in the world have it wrong, America, or is it possible that you do?)

That said, if I lived in such a society, I could see my upbringing resulting in me being one of the ones who says, "uh, no, you go first". People are just scared and there are lots of reasons for that, and I don't think most of them are legitimate, but the fear and hatred that has led an ever-increasing number of people to believe they need a gun to be safe, is front and center among them.

I don't know what to suggest. It is in the culture of the country at this point, and reversing that culture is next to impossible. You could outright ban all gun ownership by private citizens but all that would do is close gun shops and leave 300 million guns in the country that would take centuries to "die off" as fervent gun owners would just keep their guns and keep quiet, and I'm not paranoid enough to think the government would ever start searching people's homes for them.

I'm pretty pessimistic about it. I don't see a way out. As much as I would like to see gun control heavily limited and restricted I know that it would not do it. Armed guards in schools (as suggested by the NRA today) is just more escalation.

If the country is not ready to give up their guns (and TBH, I think the country IS ready, if you were to put it to a vote, but the minority that isn't is very militant, vocal, and vitriolic) then maybe we should look at the opposite. If guns are going to prevent crimes, test that theory. Start gun training as part of phys ed class at age 13 or so. Make gun ownership mandatory and carrying in all public places encouraged. I am playing Devil's advocate when I say this, but I don't know the future; I can't 100% guarantee that the knowledge that they could be stopped dead in their tracks just as they get going, won't prevent maniacs from going on occasional sprees -- maybe it will! And if so, there's our solution. But there are so many other problems with this, that I can't even get into all of them. No matter how I look at it, as a non-American outsider, more guns ultimately sounds like a bad idea and less guns a good one.

Phil In Gilford:

The second, probably worse, problem is that these gun buybacks are invariably "no questions asked", and no records kept. And it is known and documented that criminals have used gun buybacks to untraceably-to-them get rid of stolen guns or guns used in crimes, while getting cash back for it. Gun buy-backs are a bad, bad idea.

I've thought about gun buybacks over the years but hadn't thought it through clearly. Buyback programs, if ever instituted, would have to be much more careful than you describe above. Obviously, We can't have illegal, crime-used guns, "laundered" through a buyback program. Thank you for showing me the bigger picture.

That said, I do find the idea silly that people would break into houses to steal $50 guns (that are hidden) when they could be stealing blu-ray players, jewelry, TVs and laptop computers, all of which are not hidden, relatively easier to steal, and worth more than $50. I can't fathom that a buyback program would encourage home robberies. It sounds like a made-up argument to me.

In summary, people need to stop being so afraid, and follow the golden rule, the best thing religion ever gave us: treat others how you would like to be treated. I hope my disjointed, multi-faceted post ended up making some sense.

---

You ask, "Why can't people be peaceful and trusting instead of paranoid...?" That's the wrong question. Start with the basics: "Why can't people be trusting?" For the most part, they are -- trust but be wary. That has to be the mode since some people are not trustworthy. That's not "paranoid," it's realistic. There's a long continuum between blind trust and paranoia, and both ends of the extreme are to be avoided. You say "trust the government," and we have learned that's foolish, too, by the way. The government is run by politicians and bureaucrats, and neither is in general a great example of humanity. Therefore we must take up arms? Not necessarily: everyone will have their own reaction, their own mode of dealing based on their local conditions and experience. And that's not something bureaucrats and politicians in Washington can get right: what works for people living in a big city isn't necessarily even rational for someone in a small town, let alone someone in a very rural area.

Next, you suggest that just maybe, "every other civilized nation in the world" (besides the U.S.) has got it right. Yet we're far from the most violent "civilized nation" on the planet. The UK took away guns, and now they have a huge problem with knifings, and prosecuting people who shoot intruders, rather than prosecuting the intruders. That's not my idea of getting it right.

You seem to think we live in constant fear. Not at all. We're normal everyday people leading normal lives, and some of us have more resources at our disposal than others if pushed hard enough -- which, by the way, reduces anxiety, rather than heightens it, just like a having a fire extinguisher or knowing there's a fire station nearby helps people be more comfortable, even though the incidence of house fires is even lower than crime. -rc

Posted by Gregory, Chicago on December 21, 2012:

It's not a matter of changing gun laws, or banning weaponry, or classifying the Westboro Baptist Church (that has threatened to picket the funerals of these children) as a hate group, or encouraging the group Anonymous to post personal information online or tear down a website or talk how "only speech I like deserves to be heard". Free speech is free BECAUSE it HAS to include things you or I don't necessarily want to hear.

While people take to message boards and other social media talking about how we should burn Fred Phelps' house down or how we should "do something" to or about the gunman, and talking about how "evil" he is and cursing them out, we should be attempting to figure out what motivated this in the first place. Was the gunman's voice silenced by another whom did not want to listen until he felt this was the only form of speech he could do that people would listen?

The movie Falling Down and the DC Comics graphic novel "Batman: The Killing Joke" (where the Joker's origin is explained) both reference the effects of "one bad day".

In Falling Down, the "one bad day" is when his car's air conditioning breaks down while caught in a traffic jam on a hot day in the city after being laid off his job, while in The Killing Joke, the man who would become the Joker was failing as a stand-up comedian after quitting his job at a chemical plant.

His wife was pregnant at the time, and with no income to support them, he reluctantly agreed to help criminals steal payroll at the plant he used to work at, wearing a special hood to conceal his face. After learning his wife and unborn child had died in a household accident, he was even more reluctant to commit this crime. During the robbery, when Batman confronted the thieves, the panicked man jumped off a ledge into a chemical basin that emptied into the sewers. Later, the man discovered the chemicals permanently changed his face and hair, and with everything else that happened to him, it was that "one bad day" that made him decide nothing made sense.

In real life, there is no such thing as "one bad day". Everything builds up. There were almost certainly indicators prior to this event unfolding. How long were they ignored?

There's an old cliche about two ears and one mouth. This isn't about "speaking out" or any of that nonsense. There's been enough speaking about these things. Perhaps if someone had listened and tried to see the warning signs that most certainly were there, then we could prevent these kinds of attacks.

Creating new laws and new ways of banning things won't succeed in doing anything. If someone is determined to get his hands on assault weapons, they will. If someone wants to shoot someone, they're not going to stop and say, "Oh, gee...but guns aren't legal." If someone is determined to take their own life, they won't worry about the legalities of their final acts.

New laws and new bans have been shown not to succeed. Hunters do not use assault weapons to shoot food in the woods. Law-abiding citizens will always support laws, but will a law banning something stop the desperate? Will the desperate stop to consider the legality of what they plan? Will the desperate stop to consider the ramifications of their actions? Stop to consider for a moment WHY these people become desperate in the first place, and you will have an excellent starting point to preventing further loss of life.

Posted by Kristy, IL on December 21, 2012:

What is scary is the improper handling and lack of skill of firearm users. I have witnessed with amazement the firearm "certification" of those charged with protecting the public in court houses, etc. I have been out socially with another couple where the novice gun owner was carrying concealed and went home early because I was not comfortable. And I have heard all the bragging of gun owners that they could take out the shooter, or protect their family -- then watch them at the range. I find my pump action the most effective firearm for protection -- even unloaded.

Seems to me that the more guns in more situations by more folks that have not demonstrated their skill is just scary. So guns and the fairy tale that just a gun by itself will protect IS a problem.

Maybe this is the education the NRA needs to promote rather than promoting fear and getting all those folks buying firearms that have no skills and ability to handle them.

---

If you've read carefully, you saw that I do say that training from a qualified instructor is necessary, not optional. Thanks for saying it in another way, and from a female point of view. -rc

Posted by Steve, Naperville, IL on December 21, 2012:

I wanted to underscore your points a little more. Technology is swiftly eroding the ability to prevent anyone from acquiring nearly any weapon. There is already controversy over the ability of 3D printers to "print" working guns for people, and of course this technology will swiftly improve. There have already been cases where bright and motivated youngsters have built dangerously radioactive reactors in their homes or back yards. The cost of equipment that can enable you to produce and modify chemicals and micro-organisms is dropping rapidly; much of it is already within an individual's reach, and the knowledge required to use it is available for download on the internet.

The point is that the destructive power available to the individual is increasing, and will only continue to increase more rapidly. It's not inconceivable that large populations could be wiped out by a tailored plague in the midst of the gun control "debate". There is simply no way that every potentially destructive tool and bit of knowledge can be withheld from those eager to misuse it.

Thus a focus on why people turn to violent acts, and finding ways to prevent those acts, is increasingly critical for public safety. Arguing about how much more this or that type of gun should be regulated is fighting the last war; we need to be preparing for a future where every individual has access to frightening destructive power, for that future is nearly upon us.

Posted by Katy, Athens, GA on December 21, 2012:

Oh, man, I just want to SCREAM. I can't imagine what you're going through having to moderate this mess! People keep harping on and on about automatic weapons and assault rifles, completely ignoring the fact that these are already heavily regulated, legislated and not available to the general public! I hear this from people I know, too. It makes me want to tear out my hair. Let me try one more time for you.

Assault weapons and automatic weapons are not readily available for the average schmoe. Any person who uses them in a crime is breaking the law just by having them! We don't need more laws about that because they are already there!

Carry on.

---

"Assault weapon" does not have any legal definition. The popular definitions range anywhere from "a black rifle" to "military weapons used in combat" (which seems closer to what you're saying). -rc

Posted by Bob in NJ on December 21, 2012:

I want to address a part of the problem that has only been mentioned a couple of times, and from a different point of view.

For a moment, put yourself in the shoes of someone who wants to hurt a bunch of other people. Where should you go to do that? Police stations? Suicide by cop is an issue, but it typicaly only causes harm to the cop who has to live with it for the rest of his/her life. Stores? Mom and pop type stores might well have been robbed before and taken the precaution of arming someone in the place. Big stores often have security types, sometimes armed. Ahhh! Those places marked as gun free zones! Schools! Any gun owner there has left his guns elsewhere to stay legal. Most of the adults there are more interested in trying to protect the kids than trying to fight back. Kids are too weak to resist effectively and tend to be herded in nice groups by the teachers trying to protect them.

OK real world again. We as a nation have trouble paying for education as it is. Paying for armed guards in every school is just not going to happen. What we can do is modify the "gun free zone" policy to be more rational. First, it should apply to the students and visitors to any school. It should not apply to teachers and staff who hold valid carry permits in their state and have been approved by the local school board to carry in the schools as well. A good start would be the ROTC instructors in the high schools. A second phase would be to look at all the veterans already employed in the schools as teachers and administrators. We don't need to arm every teacher, a few per school changes a school from being a soft target to a risky target.

There is a flaw in the previous idea. That is that it will move the violence away from the schools and to other places. It may not reduce the overall rates at all, but it will help protect our children.

One final thought. Depending on whose stats you look at there are over 100,000 schools in the US, perhaps as many as 120,000. We have a couple of attacks per year in schools, most of which are one on one, not mass attacks as Newtown and Columbine were. Our schools are very safe already. We don't need to make huge efforts to fix a very uncommon problem.

Posted by Dirk in Louisiana on December 21, 2012:

Phil - Quakertown, PA said: "What kills us, what should the nanny govt take charge of for our own good?"

Strawman. All of those things are not caused by somebody else willingly, and they do not directly impact other people expect for the one dying. And if the government could take care of cancer, heart disease, stroke and all the other illnesses I would be very happy if they did.

Phil - Quakertown, PA said: "But we can use EXACTLY that argument to strip every other right from Americans."

My immediate reaction was to dismiss this as a strawman, too. And the drunk driving one totally is, as we are outlawing drunk driving, and a drunk driver is dangerous in any vehicle. But that doesn't cover it fully. Even though you obviously exaggerate for the sake of argument, it is a real argument, but one that opens a much bigger can of worms. Let's see if we can manage this without it getting out of control.

The question that you're opening up is: why do we have a government, what do we want/expect them to do? The two possible extremes are total anarchy with no practical government influence (you can ask some Central African countries how that is going) or total government control over every aspect of people's life (you can ask eastern Europe how that used to work for them, or North Korea how well it's working right now). So we'll probably be more comfortable in the middle somewhere. So what do we want it to do?

My take is that we want it to protect the few from the many (e.g. minorities), and to protect the many from the few (who have more money, bigger fists, larger guns etc.). To do that it will have to put limits on the things that individuals can do, otherwise it couldn't protect anybody from anybody. What limits you are willing to accept obviously varies wildly (or we wouldn't be having this discussion), but I'm curious about arguments against my take on it.

I want my government to enforce the Golden Rule, or as a corollary: 'Your freedom ends where mine begins (and vice versa)'. And I think overall it is not doing too bad. If there are situations where some people's actions start hurting others, the government needs to step in, even if they are limiting some individuals' abilitiy to do what they want to do. And they have.

One example where the US has been on the forefront of limiting individuals rights because they were hurting others is smoking. Whenever I go to Europe or Asia it takes a while to get used to how many people smoke in public places, and how irritating that is to me as a non-smoker. In the US public smoking is so unobtrusive that it's practically unknown. But as long as you're not infringing on others' rights (e.g. in your own home) you're free to do it as much as you want.

There are fine lines here. One is indirect effects (e.g. smoking or obesity and its cost to the health system), but so far nobody has seriously tried to go down that road, and it looks like one covered in landmines, so I don't expect that to happen anytime soon. The other one is the relationship between parents and children, but that one is extremely complicated and covered in tragedy at every turn, so let's not open that can.

But to make this whole process work the government does need to have some control not only over the where, but also over the how. I have a stump in my backyard that I need to get rid of. A pound of C4 would do that very quickly and very effectively. Do I think I should be able to buy some C4 to do that? No, because there are other ways that are effective enough and that cannot be used as easily to limit the ultimate freedom of others, which is taking their lifes. So if there are means that can easily, significantly and permanently limit other peoples' freedoms, I'm ok with not being able to use them.

There is a large gray zone here, of course. You can kill a lot of people with a tanker full of gas and an open flame. But there are legitimate reasons to have tankers full of gas on our roads. There are legitimate reasons to have a pick-up, even though many people who have pick-ups probably never use them for that. But that's ok, we can deal with some imperfectness in the system, as long as the balance between their and my freedoms is kept somewhat even, and their pick-up doesn't really hurt me all that much.

The main reason in my book to limit means is the amplification factor. For self-defense that is desired, but I think there need to be limits. If a pound of C4 can amplify my ability to kill people by 100 (i.e. I can kill 100 people in the same time I could kill 1 without it), that's a good reason not let enerybody have it. You can't kill a lot more people with a pick-up than you can with a regular car, so let people keep their pick-ups. For me the amplification factor of any gun is big enough that I would be happy without it, but there are legitimate reasons to have one and I'm willing to compromise.

Which brings me back to my original question: what's the argument for individuals to have semi-automatic weapons with large capacity magazines? The amplification factor is not as big for C4, but big enough, and I still haven't seen anybody give a legitimate reason for it.

Posted by Jeffrey, Las Vegas, Nevada on December 22, 2012:

There are probably as many ways to approach the problem as there are people, but they either deal with symptom suppression, or source suppression.

What we do have to accept is that more gun control laws are not going to solve the problem any more than more drug laws have solved the drug problem. Mass shooters break more than one law, and the penalty for killing two people is not substantially higher than killing one person. Most of these school shootings have resulted in self-inflicted death penalties. The consequences for breaking the law are irrelevant to somebody who plans a mass murder/suicide. I'll include suicide by cop in that as well; once the bullets are flying SWAT is probably going to green-light any force needed to stop the shooter.

Another reality is that it is going to be easier to get a gun in the future. They've already developed a gun made with a 3D Printer. Banning gun manufacturing will probably accelerate gun design using these devices.

We also have to accept that looking at identifying and treating the mentally ill or disturbed. We fund our prisons to lock offenders away. This isn't just to punish, but also to prevent their potential crimes. I'm under no illusions that rehabilitation is a priority in most prisons. I would hope medication could treat mentally ill people (a form of rehabilitation), but that's a question for experts.

This is a difficult road, since the mentally ill often only come onto the radar after committing a crime. Who weeds out the mentally disturbed and the real criminals? And what is the standard? Expert medical witnesses aren't that hard to purchase. State experts would be overwhelmed if they needed to examine every case that is claiming mental illness. Are child molesters mentally ill instead of criminals? Should they be put in mental institutions or prisons? There are **NO** simple answers or solutions.

Finally, there is a matter of personal responsibility when it comes to owning guns. A gun safe is a good idea to keep your guns from being stolen. Pick one that provides the right balance between security and accessibility for your needs. An unsecured gun is like leaving the keys in your car. A determined criminal can get either of them if they want, but there is no reason to make it easy.

Posted by David - Australia on December 22, 2012:

I must take issue with you on one minor point. You refer in some comments to "Ban guns". I don't think that's the point -- Gun CONTROL does not mean a gun BAN. It means things like limiting the types of weapons, who can have them, the checks and waiting times for those who do, how they're stored, etc. As I understand it you wouldn't have a hope in hell of BANNING them anyway -- your constitution guarantees the right to bear arms?

I do agree with you and other posters that that is only one small part of any solution. Australia has been through similar horrors, though not to anything like the extent you have, and gun control was a part of the solution here too.

America is "The land of the free". I think Freedom, like Power, corrupts when there is too much of it.

---

Too much freedom is bad? Wow: what a concept. The legitimate restriction to freedom is the other side of the coin: responsibility. That's what keeps my "freedom" to trample yours in check. -rc

Posted by Bob, Wollongong on December 22, 2012:

James in Perth keeps citing Australia's gun buyback, which was not the unqualified sucess he mistakenly seems to believe. Note that a 2008 academic study by Melbourne University concluded:

This paper takes a closer look at the effects of the National Firearms Agreement on gun deaths. Using a battery of structural break tests, there is little evidence to suggest that it had any significant effects on firearm homicides and suicides. In addition, there also does not appear to be any substitution effects – that reduced access to firearms may have led those bent on committing homicide or suicide to use alternative methods.

Quoting the Australian experience in support of any discussion about the US firearms situation shows complete ignorance of the real issues as they are totally different both qualitatively, in terms of the culture and legal situation, and qualitatively, in terms of the numbers of both people and firearms -- but as was noted by another poster who started uninformed and then gained some knowledge and understanding of the real picture -- this is typical of the ignorance of anti-firearms people who have no opportunity or inclination to understand the real situation. It therefore devalues their comments, as they are based on emotion, not fact or information.

Posted by David in Utah on December 22, 2012:

There are SO many things to say it hard to know where to start.

Over-crowding has been mentioned but I think it is oversimplified and in some ways backward. Years ago I read about a theory that peoples brains were better suited to small communities and that people in cities have a hard time dealing with so many people. But I have come to believe that the problem is often that in our society, cities especially, although we may deal with more people, we actually have less deep interaction, when you are at a store or restaurant interaction is superficial, and on some level the fact that virtually all of our interaction with others is superficial has an effect of dehumanizing or perception of others, they no longer are people, but become little more than animals to our subconscious mind. In a way being with more people tends to make us more alone. We need to interact with people more deeply, we need to come to care about others more. We need the family and community that for lots of people has been lost. While this isn't relevant to all these types of incidences I think it may be a factor in many.

I think the pendulum argument is an apt one, there are obviously people that need help, far too often friends and family try to get them help, but there is none available, we have closed the "inhumane" mental hospitals. But the worry over loss of freedoms and unnecessary confinement out of concern for the public good is justified as well it will need to be well thought out and constantly monitored.

There are also many incidences to point to where an in a rush to do something we do the wrong thing, I would argue the TSA security theater actually makes us less safe, it tends to give false security with may lead to less vigilance, and that is at the cost of our privacy. And the Patriot Act is a HUGE abuse of our rights, and anytime we lose/give up right the question isn't how will our current leaders use the power, but how may future ones, will we ever have leaders abuse it?

There are also many incidences where "obvious" solutions weren't good solutions, one that comes to mind was when they decided too many infants were being injured on planes so they changed the law to require FFA approved child-carriers and infant having their own seat instead of on a parents lap, seems obvious to assume being in their own seat in an approved carriers would reduce injuries. What they didn't consider was that that extra seat and ticket would make plane travel more expensive and that some families would switch to driving, and statistics tells us that planes are FAR safer than automobiles, which means that the improvement in safety for children on planes was greatly outweighed by the increased risk to the children that were driven instead. You can also see it in fuel efficiently standards that manufactures meet by removing full spares which lead to more accidents when "donuts" aren't replaced promptly, and the use of lighter metals or plastics that actually lower survivability in accidents.

The hard part for "pro-gun" people is that it EASY to point to 26 people and say they were shot with a gun, its far harder/impossible to quantify lives "saved" by guns, its all hypothetical, and even the millions of crimes prevented is quite abstract in comparison, but that's why any approach needs to be well thought out, if a gun ban on Jan 1st completely prevented mass shootings and the homicides committed with guns, but also meant that millions of rapes, robberies, murders, etc. weren't stopped by guns and thus occurred, that would hardly be a victory. Far too often now politicians that are desperate to prove they "care" rush to make statements before all the facts are known and rush to enact policies/laws that might in some way help, with little to no regard to possible downsides or unintended consequences.

The argument that having a gun to defend yourself is ineffective is proven false by the fact that banks, government buildings, television studios, and office buildings everywhere use armed guards, celebrities and politicians everywhere have armed security, even celebrities that promote gun control and leaders of nations that bar the public from owning guns feel they are entitled to the protection guns provide.

I think the right to bear arms in a natural expression of our natural right to defend ourselves, and others, a right that is as clear to a mother bear as it is to a zebra kicking an attacking predator, basically "I as a living thing have the right to do what I can to protect my life". As reasoning beings we have tended to not only include defense from physical harm but infringement of our rights, whether buy a robber, murder, rapist, thief, agent of a tyrannical domestic government, or agents of any foreign force. With a little research you can learn that the clause about the "militia" was added to reassure anti-federalists that feared a federal government would deny the right to individuals which would effectively make it impossible for the citizens collectively to oppose an over-reaching government. They had just lived with their own government turning against them and denying their rights, they wanted to safeguard that the government they were founding would not easily be able to do the same.

Do I feel that it is ok to require "reasonable" restrictions, yes, but they must ALWAYS be carefully thought out and the citizens must be vigilant.

Mandatory training is a good idea, but if the government controls the training and its price they can use that control as a backdoor ban by making it too expensive or too hard to do.

Gun registration may seem harmless but can easily be used later to help authorities round up guns, and during WWII one of the first things the Nazis did was seize the records of gun registrations in countries they invaded, it made it easy to quash resistance.

Requirements for gun-locks, safes, and storing guns unloaded effectively make guns all but useless for self-defense, asking the attacker to wait while you retrieve your separately stored ammo, open your safe, remove the trigger-lock and then load your gun generally doesn't work well.

I think this is a pretty good list of the concerns the founders were considering when crafting the second amendment: deterring tyrannical government, repelling invasion, suppressing insurrection, facilitating a natural right of self-defense, participating in law enforcement, enabling the people to organize a militia system. Any "solution" that doesn't address all of these concerns, or simply dismisses them as irrelevant or paranoid, is unacceptable to me, and many others.

I also think a HUGE factor is that we as a society have virtually destroyed all traces of self-responsibility, accountability, consequences for ones actions, and virtually any sign of discipline, or respect for anyone but yourself from how we raise the children in this country. So kids have no fear of punishment from their parents, disrespect those that are supposed to be figures of authority, ie: teachers, principals, parents, police, etc., increases in bullying, and the list goes on. And in a tangential way this is related to the comments about "removing god from schools", because in most circumstances proper behavior was taught following a religious framework, but I think it is more an issue of teaching no objective concrete morality. I think this even creeps into areas like zero-tolerance, where people raised this way are now adults and don't want to be accountable for deciding on the merits of a situation how to punish a student, no one wants to be accountable for a "bad" decision, what if something happens, so they blindly cling to ill-conceived policies that treat a kindergartner's toy g.i. joe gun, a crayon picture of a gun, or even a deaf child's sign-name that may resemble a gun, as the same as an actual gun. In a way it is almost logical to assume that if no one has ever expected or demanded you to behave properly that any complaints about others will be useless, a gun may appear to many to be the only option to deal with problems.

Some have argued that the founders couldn't have envisioned the types of guns we have today and so the right to bear arms should only apply to guns similar to the ones they had then, the "musket argument". But by that logic the bill of rights wouldn't protect any sort of "press" more advanced than movable type, and freedom of speech wouldn't protect TV, phone, radio, email, the internet, twitter, etc, freedom of religion wouldn't apply to any religion not already established at the time, the 4th amendment wouldn't cover your car or DNA. That's a pretty ugly police state I don't think they would want to live in, I certainly don't.

And I haven't even touched the fact that no one seems to have put forward any reason why a prohibition on certain guns, all guns, or large magazines, would be any more effective that the prohibition or alcohol or drugs has been. Or how even if they somehow removed all the guns in America overnight how could they keep new ones from getting in, we don't seem to be able to keep millions of people and large amounts of drugs from entering our country, how could we keep guns out?

To trade away the prevention of crimes done with legally owned firearms every day for the possibility that it may save some lives that are lost to guns is an ill-conceived trade.

I will include some quotes that seem as relevant today as when they were made:

"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms, disarm only those who are neither inclined, nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants. They serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." -Thomas Jefferson

"What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms." -Thomas Jefferson

"Those who beat their swords into plowshares usually end up plowing for those who didn't." -Ben Franklin

"Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property... Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them." -Thomas Paine

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." -Benjamin Franklin

"A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government." -George Washington

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined. The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun." -Patrick Henry.

"If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government...." -Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist (#28) .

"Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest." -Mahatma Gandhi

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on December 22, 2012:

I become infuriated by signs at buildings saying "Guns and other weapons are not permitted in this facility." It is at many malls, most work places, etc. Think it through. Does anyone think it is dangerous for a normal, mentally healthy person to have a gun or knife at work hidden in a pocket? Does anyone think that a person who was planning to come to work to kill people and then commit suicide will be deterred in any way by that rule? Do they think a madman will be less mad if his actions could get them fired or disciplined? Again a case of fuzzy thinking.

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I get terribly uncomfortable when I see such signs, and have decided, for instance, not to eat in a restaurant with such a sign since I view it as an invitation to just the sorts of people you mention: someone coming to rob a place is already committing a felony, so all the sign does is keep out the law-abiding gun owners who might have had a chance to fight back. The sign may as well say "Felons Welcome! No resistance to criminals will be found here!" -rc

Posted by Brian, Hendersonville, TN on December 22, 2012:

Many good thoughts and comments.

For those who would like a thoroughly researched document regarding guns in America today please go to http://www.gunfacts.info

"Gun Facts is a free e-book that debunks common myths about gun control. It is intended as a reference guide for journalists, activists, politicians, and other people interested in restoring honesty to the debate about guns, crime, and the 2nd Amendment."

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Each of the facts in the Gunfacts e-book (it's a downloadable PDF, not a bunch of articles on a web site) include the source so that it can be verified. -rc

Posted by Rob in Alberta on December 22, 2012:

Just to clarify, many in Alberta (and Canada) do NOT share Steve's myopic vision of guns. Many of us know that AUTOMATIC weapons have been banned in Canada and the US for decades. Many of us know that laws the purport to ban "assault weapons" do not work as intended because most of the features described are cosmetic and can be added or taken away at will.

I have found it interesting that the mainstream media has largely ignored the other gun-shooting event that took place the same week as Newtown: the mall shooting. Why? "Only" two people were killed and one injured. Why? A private citizen pulled his gun and stopped it. I have heard for so long "if it saves just one life" -- well, this shooter had a number of magazines with him, how many lives were saved because someone else had a gun?

Posted by gregory - NY on December 22, 2012:

If we could, let's stop arguing about the past. It happened, it will happen again. So. What do we do about it? That's the question. In Israel, in this kind of situation, ie, a suicide bomber, the entire crowd swarms the terrorist. The "swarm the shooter" is a proven modality for reducing (not stopping, Reducing) the number of innocents hurt. This can be implemented Today. The only thing holding this effective technique back is not implementing it. We can either bitch and moan "woe is me", or we can take immediate action today, and solve the problem.

Posted by Kim, Japan on December 22, 2012:

Two things:

1) The whole issue with speed = danger is big here in Japan and it's just as wrong. They've had a lot of accidents up in the mountains this year (including several FATAL ones! o_O) because of unusual amounts of ice. People here know how to drive on snow, not ice. Their problem isn't speed -- that's what the local police ticket for, but it's not the big problem. Yes, people sometimes drive too fast on curves, but the big thing is people drive WAY too close to each other, and even in rural Japan the population density you're going to be driving with other people on the road even in back country and even in the middle of the night. They teach people that for every 10 kph have 100m between you and the next car, but that rule is confusing and people don't use it. They don't know the "five second" rule (count five seconds between you and the next car using a stationary object to judge ...seven seconds, at least, on ice!) and they drive about two seconds apart. Well, they do, my husband doesn't. We've had more than one close call that would have been a BAD accident if we didn't stay further back from other cars, but the cops never ticket for that! Most drivers on our island would be getting moving violation tickets in nothing flat if they had to deal with the highway patrol back in our home state.

2) The general attitude toward mental health issues in most places is terrible. No, atrocious. Lack of sympathy is almost as much damage as availability (or lack thereof, really) of care. Really, many mental health issues are no different from physical health issues; many stem from biochemical imbalances that can be treated with medication and lifestyle changes, which is just like most medical conditions.

Posted by Dawn, New Jersey on December 22, 2012:

I'll say I both agree and disagree with you. I don't want to ban guns. I grew up in an area where people hunted, did target shooting, etc. I'm fine with that. I'm not fine with guns being so readily available that I can (depending on my state) walk into Wal*Mart and buy one.

In most places, I can't buy a car (legitimately) without a valid driver's license and proof of insurance. Generally, to get that license I need to take some sort of training. Why can't we regulate guns to that extent? Yes, people steal cars, drive without insurance. It will happen with guns, too. But it will also decrease the number of people who have guns and don't know how to use them.

People reference the police and the military. They are both trained to use guns and to shoot at people. Most will tell you that it took a lot of training to shoot at another person.

Again, I don't want to get rid of guns. I don't want my children to attend schools with armed guards. I don't want my children to live in fear that their classmate will have a gun in their backpack. I DO want guns to be regulated at least as much as a car. (and restore the assault rifle ban...most non-uniformed people don't need them!)

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What, exactly, IS an assault rifle? I've said many, many times in these two pages that there is no legal definition for the term, so how, exactly, will you enforce such a ban, let alone know why you want to ban them? This is a great demonstration of needing to ask the right questions before doing something that might have huge unintended consequences. -rc

Posted by Phil, Gilford NH on December 22, 2012:

Will the desperate stop to consider the legality of what they plan? Will the desperate stop to consider the ramifications of their actions? Stop to consider for a moment WHY these people become desperate in the first place, and you will have an excellent starting point to preventing further loss of life. --Gregory, Chicago

Kudos to you, Gregory. This is part of the essential realization that seems to elude politicians. Violent crime in the US is not a cause, it is a symptom, and you cannot cure an ailment by treating only its symptoms. You have to go after the root cause.

Unfortunately, when it comes to politics and sociology, root causes are hard, and it's soooooo much easier to slap a band-aid on the most visible system. It scarcely matters whether the band-aid actually even works at all; you, the Noble Member of Congress, were Seen To Do Something. And being Seen To Do Something is vital in politics, even when the best reasoning behind it is "We must do something; this is something; therefore we must do this."

We'd all be a lot better off if our elected leaders would take the time to actually understand the problem before rushing out to Do Something. But if they did that, someone else might beat them to it and steal "their" headlines.

Posted by Phil in Gilford on December 22, 2012:

David from Down Under, I do need to point out just one flaw in your reasoning. Here in the US, when the anti-gun lobby talks about gun "control", banning guns is exactly what they're talking about. Gun "control" is a mere euphemism. Real gun control is consistently hitting your target and not hitting anything else. But to the gun control lobby, guns will be adequately "controlled" only when there are no privately-owned guns.

As for gun control being "part of the solution" in Australia, my understanding, looking at your historical crime rates, is that Australia never had a "gun violence" problem to solve in the first place. Australia has its own social problems just as the US does, but Australia's have never to my knowledge manifested as large-scale violent crime.

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After Australia's gun ban in 2000, by the way, firearm-related murders went up 19%, armed robberies went up 69%, and home invasions went up 21%. (Source: Gunfacts.info) Simply, criminals still had guns, and honest civilians were deprived of defense from those predators. -rc

Posted by Phil - Quakertown, PA on December 22, 2012:

Dirk in Louisiana: You quoted me as noting "But we can use EXACTLY that argument to strip every other right from Americans." And your response to my suggestion that we should ban or restrict pickup trucks if they are disproportionately used by drunks, was:

My immediate reaction was to dismiss this as a strawman, too. And the drunk driving one totally is, as we are outlawing drunk driving, and a drunk driver is dangerous in any vehicle. But that doesn't cover it fully. Even though you obviously exaggerate for the sake of argument, it is a real argument, but one that opens a much bigger can of worms. Let's see if we can manage this without it getting out of control.

I was not exaggerating at all. In fact, this is EXACTLY the logic used by those who wish to micro-manage us little people.

Yes, a drunk is dangerous in any vehicle. And a sociopath is dangerous with any weapon. Banning the most common thing used by drunks is no different than banning the weapon of choice of dangerous psychotics.

A madman wants to do terrible things BECAUSE they are terrible things, because he craves the attention that our unrestrained media will lavish upon him posthumously (they enjoy anticipating the coverage as they plan and carry out their attack, and the Va Tech shooter actually mailed a press package before he started his assault.) As the Brits know, take away handguns and you get a rifle problem. Take away rifles and shotguns and you get a knife problem. Take away knives...well, how do you eliminate "sharp object" from any modern society? Google "knife control" if you want to see a once-great empire die, not with a bang, but a whimper.

Mayor Bloomberg is the poster child for the nanny state. He wants to ban all guns, everywhere, because as long as guns are available in Pennsylvania they will find their way to NYC. Never mind that cocaine from South America gets to NYC, too. A global ban is just fine with Bloomberg, too. It's no coincidence that Bloomberg also feels entitled to ban over-16 oz sodas, and smoking everywhere, for exactly the "exaggerated" reasons that I put forth. It's not a strawman argument if it's the rationale of your opponents, and the nanny state wants to ban things simply because those in power think they're bad for us.

Semi-automatic rifles that "have no purpose except to kill large numbers of people indiscriminately" are issued to police departments everywhere. Why? Do the police engage in mass mall killings? Do the police encounter criminals in some segregated universe where we little people won't encounter the exact same criminals? Nope. Criminals target people who are NOT police, and the police get involved only if we survive long enough to summon them. In the meantime, we have to use guns to keep those dangerous criminals at bay. What guns are appropriate for dealing with those bad guys? Well, what guns do the cops think are appropriate for dealing with them? Glocks and AR-15's, mostly.

So why exactly do trained law enforcement professionals need 30 round mags (and selective-fire capability, sometimes) to deal with the same bad guys that you folks think we can successfully defend our homes against using 6-shot revolvers?

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People decry semi-autos because they "shoot as fast as people pull the trigger." So do revolvers. And have you seen how fast competition revolver shooters can reload? It's a lot faster than I can reload a semi-auto: Jerry Miculek can fire 12 rounds accurately (hit three different targets four times each) from a six-shooter in under three seconds! I doubt I could do that with a pistol that held 12 rounds. -rc

Posted by Carol in New Jersey on December 22, 2012:

The Public Heath mantra is PREVENTION THROUGH EDUCATION. 'Public Health' refers to us, the people, and we need to be educated re: mental health. At this time, having a 'mental health problem' is a stigma on the person who wants to use mental health services, and (gasp!) have those services covered by his/her health insurance policy. And for children who suffer mental health issues, often parents are in denial -- "How could I have a defective child? He/she looks ok." I'm a retired RN, and have seen these situations present over the years.

Gun control laws are about as full of holes as swiss cheese.

Let's do the hard work of working toward a healthier population where violence isn't glorified.

Posted by Bob in Oklahoma on December 22, 2012:

People are fond of comparing auto regulations to gun regs. Let's look at that.

We only test abilities once -s the first time one obtains a license. No state tests your abilities or knowledge again. You can have a license for 40 years, and you never take a written or driving test again, unless you've let your license lapse.

The only thing that gets rechecked is your vision -- every four or five years, depending on the state.

Your license is good nationwide, no matter the differences between state licensing laws. If you're licensed in Texas, you can drive in Hawaii, Alaska, or even New Jersey without getting a new license or taking another test.

Not every state requires vehicle inspection for registration. Many just do a random roadside stop.

There is no requirement to add equipment to car to limit who can use it.

The auto insurance requirement is only there to make sure any person YOU injure is made whole again, or to make the lien-holder whole again if the car is destroyed. It has nothing to do with criminal misuse of my car. If you steal my car and kill someone with it, I'm not responsible. You are.

If you lose the right to own or drive a car, it doesn't prevent others in your family from owning or driving a car.

I can drive my car anywhere in the US without having to re-register it in every state.

There are no age limits for owning a car, nor limits on how many cars you can own. I can own one, two, or thirty, as long as I can afford them.

There is no practical limit on how fast the car can go. States may set a limit you can't exceed, but your car can still be capable of higher speeds. My van will go at least 85, according to the speedometer. My truck can go faster than that. Most states have speed limits below that.

There are also no restrictions on what they look like. They can have racing stripes, or sun roofs, or convertible roofs. No restrictions on cosmetic details that don't affect function. There are no legal limits on engine size.

No storage requirements, either. I can store my car in my garage, or on the street.

So, do you really want to regulate guns like you do cars?

Posted by Mati, Israel on December 22, 2012:

What Sergio forgot to mention, which only serves to further support his comment, is that:

A) Each soldier gets a Psychological evaluation, and during basic training each soldier is trained in the use of a gun.
B) Anyone who carries a gun in the army is *required* to take it home (unless certain limitations make it inadvisable)
c) To get a license to carry a gun in Israel a psych test is required, and anyone who got out of military service for psychological reasons can *never* get a gun license.

Posted by claire, oxfordshire on December 22, 2012:

I absolutely agree that the background should be looked at, rather than just a kneejerk reaction to what happened. Luckily we do not have too much gun crime in the UK (although we have had serious gun incidents including 16 primary school children and an adult shot dead in Dunblane in 1996, 16 killed in Hungerford in 1987 and 12 killed in Cumbria in 2010).

I know that my rant is a small problem considering the original topic but hope that it helps illustrate the problem of over-reaction. There is a road near me where the speed limit was reduced from 60mph to 50mph because there was a fatal accident -- understandable but the driver was doing at least 90mph. Another road where the speed limit was reduced after a fatal accident -- the driver was drunk -- and doing 70mph! Neither occurred in an accident black spot. How has reducing the speed limit made the roads safer?

Please do not get me wrong -- I feel very sorry for ALL the families concerned but why are law-abiding people punished because people do not obey laws that are already there?

Posted by Phil in Gilford on December 22, 2012:

Dawn - I have heard exactly that guns-should-be-regulated-like-cars argument many times. It sound great, but the truth is, it's the argument of people who haven't ever actually studied the facts.

I'm not going to go into all the details here right now; consider that as an exercise left for the student, to do the research. But the capsule summary is, guns are already licensed and restricted MUCH more tightly than cars are.

To cite just one example point of comparison: Anyone with the money to afford them can buy as many cars as they like, of whatever kinds they like, without restriction. Even if you're a convicted felon in active current psychiatric care and you have a current restraining order against you, all you need in order to perfectly legally buy a Formula One race car -- or an 18-wheeler, or a double-decker bus -- is the money.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on December 22, 2012:

For Dawn in NJ, I'm compelled to refute your claim. At 60 years old, I've never had to show a driver's license to buy a car, new or used. Neither a dealer nor individual cares if I have a license to drive; that's between the State and me. The only time I've had to show insurance is when the dealer financed my car. Now I buy a car with my credit card and use bank financing to pay off the card. I have to show insurance to the bank. Driving is a privilege, I'm told. Gun ownership is supposed to be a right. Yet I have much more impedance to buying a gun than a car, even with a clean criminal record simply because I was arrested twice some 35 years ago. Both charges were dropped. But it still causes a delay in the NICS approval every time. So it takes me 3 days to get permission to complete a purchase.

Contrary to popular belief, gun shows are not huge underground arms deals. Every dealer MUST submit a purchaser to the same NICS check as a gun store must. It's true that an individual may sell, barter, or otherwise transfer a firearm to another individual without a NICS check, but that's usually on a 1-time basis. Anyone who engages in multiple sales of firearms is considered by the BATFE to be a dealer, whether licensed or not. And the penalties for unlicensed dealing are harsh. And don't think that gun shows don't have plenty of BATFE agents monitoring them for exactly such situations.

As for anyone else who thinks that limiting magazine capacity will reduce the numbers of casualties, think again. My wife has a Glock 19, a 9mm that comes with two 15-round magazines. Too many bullets? Fine, MY Glock 26 is also a 9mm that comes with three 10-round clips. Still the same amount of cartridges. And I can easily carry another dozen in a pouch or on my belt. It takes only a second to drop a spent clip and shove another one in. About the time of one shot. And as Randy pointed out, revolvers with swing-out cylinders can be refreshed with speed-loaders in nearly the same time as a semi-auto.

Posted by Robyn, Baltimore, MD on December 22, 2012:

Mentally ill people can not only kill others but themselves. I have three relatives who killed themselves before I was born. My grandmother shot herself; her brother used car exhaust in a garage; and another great uncle on my mother's side hung himself. The first two probably had undiagnosed bipolar disorder, while the last was depressed after being forced to enlist. I don't blame the weapons in my head; I blame the mental illnesses. But, in my heart, I know if my grandmother didn't have a house full of guns from which to choose (coming from a family of avid hunters when it was more of requirement for survival), her desire to kill herself may have passed, and I may have gotten to know her. I am also friends with the whitetail deer, and half of them have gun damage which breaks my heart. They can live for years crippled so someone could have "fun."

My father says when he hunted, he didn't miss because it wasn't about "fun" back then. Hunters can use arrows too so, again, I don't blame the tools but the user. My father went insane in 2004 and was diagnosed as bipolar at 65 years old. The first thing they did was remove the guns from the house. Just the other day, he told my mother that he would shoot himself to please her if the guns were still there. So, many of you may love the guns but I couldn't sleep if they were in the house. It's just too easy.

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Yep, and for some people, it's absolutely rational to choose not to have guns. I'm glad your family has that choice. -rc

Posted by Paul, Davis, CA on December 22, 2012:

I am a liberal who doesn't want to take guns away from millions of responsible gun owners. Rather than be do that, I feel that we have to invite and welcome gun owners to be a part of the dialogue. Threatening to take away the weapons that they constitutionally are allowed to carry is NOT going to help. Asking them for their ideas and their cooperation is much more likely to result in good ideas than punishing responsible gun owners for acts they did not commit. Nobody wants these things to happen. And while I think more guns are not the answer (I mean, we should have enough already, I would be loath to exclude anyone from the ongoing discussion. Let's remember that every sane person wants these shootings to stop.

Put me down as a vegetarian liberal non-gun owner who supports the second amendment right to own and bear arms, even though I do not exercise it myself. And I have known enough gun owners to know that most of them are extremely safe and responsible with their weapons. So please, let's talk solutions instead of sweeping changes that may or may not help. It is always tempting to do something about these things as soon as possible -- this leads to a lot of bad legislation (Patriot Act, anyone?)

Oh yes: for what it's worth: I have been taking antidepressants for a few years now, and I am not homicidal nor suicidal, but my prescriber did watch carefully for the first few months until she was sure I wasn't going to get worse.

Posted by Chip, Rowlett, Texas on December 22, 2012:

I really do appreciate what you do. You allow an open and free swinging debate for all to participate. I think both of your articles are pertinent and to the point.I have one question and one request for you. Have/will you forward both to the President and your Congressman. Why not exhort all of your readers to do so. Let's get our leaders to start asking what the REAL questions. Right now it sounds like all they are listening to is the rabid barkings of the anti-gun lobby.

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It feels ...odd... to print off my own publications to send to politicians, but I have no objection to your doing so. -rc

Posted by Jim (Michigan) on December 23, 2012:

OK, first things first, this singular essay was the primary reason for my signing up for the Premium edition. I've enjoyed the free version for many years.

Secondly, I worked with a man from Switzerland and had asked him about the guns there. He told me that not only was there required to be a gun in every citizen's household (hence the 47% number?) but that there was a mandatory number of bullets which must be fired each year (practice makes perfect.) Of course this was 15 years ago and may no longer be the case.

Posted by JimJ, Lansing, MI on December 23, 2012:

On Dec 20th, in reply to John of Saskatoon, you suggested that statistics from 2001 are too old. If so, you should probably point out (in your oft-repeated claim about crimes prevented) that those statistics are from a 1993 book (though perhaps a more recent edition), and that the publisher's own description suggests that the information and research is largely older still.

In 2001, Mark Duggan discusses some of the methodological and statistical problems with work by Kleck and Lott (among others, on both sides), though I don't know how much of it applies to the specific studies in that particular book.

Direct records of gun ownership are not available, but that paper used subscriptions to Guns & Ammo as a proxy, and demonstrated that if you wanted county-level (as opposed to state-level) data, it was pretty good (as proxies go), and probably the best proxy then available.

Gun violence (like other crimes) varies between different locations and different times; the variation over time isn't uniform across different locations.

One of the conclusions is that more guns == more gun homicides (in a slightly lagged time period).

Higher levels of gun ownership also led to slightly higher rates of other crimes -- but the difference there wasn't large enough to be significant. The fact that it was positive at all does suggest that the actual deterrent value is *probably* less than the actual temptation-when-not-thinking cost.

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I'm not sure how much more clearly I can "point out" that the source book's "latest edition is 2005 -- newer, but still a bit long in the tooth, especially considering the upswing in both gun ownership and carry permits in the past 7 years" -- which I did, immediately after lamenting that the other reference is from 2001 -- but if you'd like to suggest better wording, please feel free.

I don't dispute that "more guns == more gun homicides (in a slightly lagged time period)," but that's only looking at one side of the coin. It also means a lot more crimes are stopped, usually without firing a shot. It's not rational to embrace one benefit while simultaneously ignoring significant repercussions. -rc

Posted by JimJ Lansing, MI on December 23, 2012:

As a bit of personal perspective, a member of my family needed to be committed (sometimes against her will) to psychiatric treatment. According to some of the forms, this meant "clear and imminent threat", though a search of the relevant law today suggests only "reasonable expectation" of "physical harm" in "the near future".

We didn't have guns, and sometimes got rid of or locked up steak knives and even scissors. Far from ideal, but I can say that in practice, being attacked with a pen was less frightening than being threatened with scissors; limiting an assailant's potential tools does make a difference.

Obviously, it would have been *theoretically* possible for her to construct other, far more effective weapons. In practice, it was *not* actually possible, because doing so required enough sustained rationality that she would have had time to abort the violence entirely. (Those who would persist in an evil plan while clear-headed generally do not meet the current legal definition of insane, cannot legally be ordered to cooperate with treatment, and may not even be particularly treatable if they do cooperate.)

Michigan law prevents a mentally ill person from legally possessing a pistol (I don't find actual law regarding other guns), but that is largely symbolic. The procedural requirement is getting a permit, and gun boards are instructed to check for criminal records, but are not instructed to (and arguably not allowed to) check for a mental-health prohibition.

Even if they tried to check for mental health, to the best of my knowledge, the state doesn't even keep of a list of people barred from weaponry because of mental illness. There is one circumstance in which an entry should be made in the Law Enforcement Information Network, but the practicalities of effective treatment mean that this entry will almost never be made, and other aspects of the law mean that such entries are likely to be removed quickly, even if the person is still obviously unstable and likely to be dangerous again in the future.

Posted by Robert in Missouri on December 23, 2012:

The weakness of the current system of purchasing guns from a dealer is that it expects a gun buyer to be honest and to report himself or herself on forms. Another problem -- as seen with Adam Lanza -- was that he took guns from his mother; he didn't purchase his weapons but simply took them from a family member. A third problem is that there is no mechanism for controlling gun sales between private parties or controlling black market (stolen) gun sales. To put it simply, making it harder to purchase a firearm from a dealer will mean that more people will shift over to the private market or the black market.

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Sure, people can lie on forms. But the form isn't just locked in a drawer: the dealer (and I can only speak for my state, where I have experience) enters information into a computer system where details are cross-checked and verified. Whether we have a check into mental health records, I don't know, but certainly criminal records are cross-checked, and it generally takes several hours to get a reply to OK the dealer to release the weapon. I'm sure the penalty for lying on the forms is pretty darned high -- and they should be. -rc

Posted by Ed, Shaftsbury VT on December 23, 2012:

1. Dealing with mental health issues is too politically incorrect for the liberals. It involves making value judgements, recognizing and defining an objective "normal", and disapproval of individual actions. It also involves placing restrictions on behavior and forcing medications upon individuals. For some set of illogical reasons it seems it is preferable to place restrictions on society as a whole rather than on individuals.

2. "The keeping of the peace, policing, is incumbent upon all citizens, not just those of us who are paid to enforce the law. That is one of the very foundations of our system of self governance." When we all lived in true, interactive, lively neighborhoods this statement was so obvious no one bothered to say it, we just lived by it. The slogan for all emergency services should be "When seconds count, we're just minutes away." It might make more people willing to help themselves and others when they can.

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I hardly think "liberals," who tend to be in favor of public health solutions, want to exclude mental health issues from that concept. -rc

Posted by David in Utah on December 23, 2012:

Some people have dismissed the possibility of killers using bombs, because of the supposed difficulty to make bombs/explosives. That isn't the case, with very little research, and easily obtained supplies, it is EXTREMELY easy to make VERY powerful explosives, as well as thermite that can be used to weaken/damage structural supports, and incendiaries similar to napalm. In fact I think that it would actually easier to kill more people with these types of weapons than with guns, but I think mass killers often time enjoy the sense of power of pulling the trigger.

Posted by Phil, Gilford NH on December 23, 2012:

Jim from Michigan: There is a classic story from the Second World War involving Switzerland. Hitler wanted to move troops through Switzerland, and the Swiss were refusing in accordance with their long-standing policy of armed neutrality. General Guderian on the German side argued that Germany could, if it wished, simply go through Switzerland without the consent of the Swiss. The Swiss General Guisan pointed out that this would violate Switzerland's neutrality, and that Switzerland could mobilize 80,000 men in 24 hours to resist it. Guderian retorted, "I can put 240,000 men on the Swiss border in 48 hours. What would you do then?"

General Guisan is reported to have replied, "Each of my men would shoot three times. And then we would go home."

Posted by Phil, Gilford NH on December 23, 2012:

JimJ in Lansing: You assert that Duggan (2001) questions the methodology of Kleck and Lott, and draws his own conclusion that more guns result in more gun violence. I would like to know how you reconcile this with the unquestionable matters of public record that over the last ten years or so, Americans have been buying firearms at a higher rate than at any previous time in US history, while simultaneously more and more states have been enacting "shall-issue" concealed-carry laws, and yet while both of these have been happening, FBI Unified Crime Reports show that violent crime in the US has been consistently and steadily decreasing.

I would also point out that there have been several attempts from the left to debunk Kleck's and Lott's work. In every case but one that I am aware of, the methodological objections have been shown not to hold water. In one case, Lott noted and acknowledged an inadvertent error in his methodology, corrected the methodology to comply with the objection, and went back and recalculated an entire chapter of his book using the amended methodology ... with results that even more strongly supported his argument.

One final note: Gary Kleck started out intending to write a monograph proving that the argument for gun control was correct and that gun control was the solution to violent crime. The results of his own study proved the theory wrong so strongly that he found he had no defensible course of action other than to change his opinion in light of the realities shown by his own research. Would that others such as Dr. Kellermann were so honest.

Footnote: The Kellermann study is the source of the beloved factoid of gun control advocates that a gun in the home is 23 times more likely to be used to kill or injure a family member than to defend against a criminal attack. When Kellermann's work was checked using his own data, it was found that he had made a mathematical error and the true figure was 2.3:1, not 23:1. Kellermann acknowledged the error, but continued to use the erroneous figure because it sounded better, as did the rest of the gun control lobby.

However, the REAL damning flaw in the Kellermann study isn't in Kellermann's bad math. It's that his result was drawn not from a study planned to be about gun control, but was a serendipitous side factoid about his data set that he noticed during a study on domestic violence. As such, his data set -- and here's the true problem -- was specifically selected for that study, and was the 1,000 households in the Atlanta area with the highest reported incidence of domestic violence.

So, what Kellermann's result actually proves is that if you are a member of one of the one thousand most violent households in the Atlanta area, you are in more danger from domestic violence within the household than from a chance attack by a random stranger.

Umm... "Duh? No kidding?"

Posted by Phil - Quakertown, PA on December 23, 2012:

I can verify that mental health records are accessible by NICS and by the state points-of-contact.

Here in Pennsylvania (despised by the Brady Campaign for our ease of licensed carry and our refusal to ban anything except "bombs"), the law requires mental health providers to notify the State Police whenever someone is involuntarily committed, or otherwise adjudicated mentally ill. The admission itself is prohibiting for firearms ownership, regardless of the outcome, which means that if your dog dies and your wife leaves you and your boss fires you for being distracted by the wife and dog, you may be "depressed", and forcibly admitted for a mandatory interview with a doctor. If he decides, after a couple of hours, that your depression is a natural result of your hellish week, and releases you, you are STILL prohibited from firearms ownership.

It's been at least 15 years since FFL's transferred guns on the honor system. The instant check verifies most of what you claim on the form, with exceptions for drug users who have never been caught. But if you were dishonorably discharged, have outstanding warrants, had a misdemeanor conviction for a scuffle with your girlfriend 20 years ago, or had any of the other "official" events listed in state or federal law, then you're not walking out with a gun, and you may find police waiting for you in the parking lot.

The gun shops are not the weak point in gun violence these days, it's the revolving door for criminals, and the enablers of the mentally ill who don't want their crazy son stigmatized. There's no level of background checks that will overcome a mother who foolishly trusts her insane son, and the solution is to identify the insane and deal with them, not make the rest of us helpless.

BTW, there IS a correlation between murder rates and gun ownership rates, but it's not that guns cause murders. It's that people who live where body bags sprout like flowers tend to get scared and they buy guns. To argue the other way is like saying that buying flood insurance causes hurricanes, because the two are strongly correlated on maps.

Posted by Bob in Oklahoma on December 23, 2012:

Phil - Quakertown, PA: I think the instructions for that question on the 4473 specify that the adjudication must come from a court, board, commission or other lawful authority. Can't copy and paste the instructions (DRM? Really? On a PUBLIC FORM?), but the exceptions to 11f include "a person in a mental institution for observation or a voluntary admission to a mental institution."

Interested parties may see the 4473 themselves at http://www.atf.gov/forms/download/atf-f-4473-1.pdf

Posted by David - Australia on December 23, 2012:

Ref your reply to my comment above: "Too much freedom is bad? Wow: what a concept. The legitimate restriction to freedom is the other side of the coin: responsibility. That's what keeps my "freedom" to trample yours in check. -rc"

I'm with you completely. But how do you deal with the people who DON'T show responsibility -- such as these shooters? You talk about a "legitimate" restriction -- but how do you legislate responsibility? And ANY legislation is a curb on freedom, isn't it? The trick, I think, is to get the restrictions so that they don't bother the average person much at all, but severely restrict the ability of people to go and shoot kids in schools with semi-automatic weapons.

The just issued response of the NRA giving a point-blank NO to any restrictions on type and capacity of weapons indicates, to me, that THEY are not willing to show ANY responsibility in this debate.

You and other posters have lamented the lack of a definition for "assault weapon". It IS difficult -- anything requiring an action other than a trigger pull to reload would rule out revolvers! So some restriction on magazine capacity (maybe to the 6 shots of a revolver) would be good. Maybe restrictions based on barrel length.

The widely held human vice of greed comes into this too. People are always going to want more than they need -- faster cars, more powerful amplifiers and bigger guns.

---

I don't think the NRA has much power to make points right now, in part because people are fed up with the "no compromises" approach (even though I understand it, the tactic is tiresome). Those who refuse responsibility and trample the rights of others are called criminals, and they're well known for not following the rules already. The question is how to deal with them without trampling the rights of those who are responsible. And that, of course, is what the whole debate is about. -rc

Posted by Phil in Gilford on December 23, 2012:

David from Down Under: You say the NRA's flat "No" to any type/capacity restriction shows irresponsibility. I propose instead that this is the NRA being responsible — saying "This proposed law has already been tried, for ten years, and wasclearly shown not to work. Let's not waste effort on it again. It's time to stop blaming the tools and start addressing the real problems." Because we will never address the real problems until we first stop those with an unreasoning hatred or fear of the tools from derailing everything into blaming the tools.

The thing that has to be kept in mind about the whole subject of gun control in the United States is that when you drill down to the heart of the U.S. gun control agenda, it is not about getting rid of violent crime. That would be a great side-effect if it were to happen, but it's not the important part. To the U.S. gun "control" lobby, it's about getting rid of all firearms, not about reducing crime — except from the narrow perspective of their belief that mere ownership of any gun, by anyone, ever, for any reason, should be a crime.

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on December 23, 2012:

David said: " But how do you deal with the people who DON'T show responsibility -- such as these shooters? You talk about a 'legitimate' restriction -- but how do you legislate responsibility?"

The question is the problem. This nation went from a country of justice to a country of laws. The constitution that establishes all laws in this country including the bill of rights runs just under 5,000 words. Obamacare has 2700 pages for a small piece of our legal puzzle and regulations quadriple that. Why? It is because the lawers have taken control from the people. No longer is it important what is right or just or what the clear meaning of a law is, but rather how we can parse the word "is". No one reading "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishmentof religion" should have any question that the constitution said you can't make any laws about religion. But NOOOOO, we have parsed that and poked that and built whole universes around it to give the lawyers a playground. There should never be a case where a guilty man goes free because of a clerical error or mistake in form. If there is proof of the guilt, punish then guilty AND the person who made the error.

Another thing that has changed is shame. The force that stopped a lot of crime and even more non-criminal bad behavior was that your friends would drop you and you would not be admitted into polite society if you did that type of thing. Did it stop it all? Don't be stupid, of course not. But as our society goes shame free and "if it feels good do it." And "don't dis me man." and all of the plea bargins and guilty going free, the reason to behave is now only the fear of jail.

How to come back? One thing is to accept and honor shame. It is shameful to be a bully. It is shameful to hurt the helpless. It is shameful to be greedy and lie and cheat. Don't honor liars. Roman Polanski should be a pariah and should be in jail and not honored. Most of our bad boy rappers and actors should be shunned. Until that starts, no laws will help.

---

Actually, I disagree: we didn't "parse that and poked that and built whole universes around it to give the lawyers a playground," the lawyers did that. Why? Because now only they can figure out what anything means anymore -- they're created a system where we "need" them to figure out the law. What we did was allow them to do that. (Yeah, I know: you're pretty much saying the same thing....) -rc

Posted by David in Utah on December 23, 2012:

I do find it interesting that no one seems to calls on the ACLU to accept responsibility for horrible things people say under the 1st amendment, or for criminals being protected by the 4th, and yet somehow the NRA being strong protectors of the 2nd amendment makes them responsible for all the bad things done with guns.

The only people with any responsibility other than the shooter are people that knew he was a danger and chose to do nothing, those that could have stopped it but chose not to, and those that chose to make it so that the responsible adults at the school (if we are entrusting them with the care and safety of children we should be able to assume they are responsible) had no way to defend themselves and the children. I believe that those in power that choose to take away our ability to defend ourselves are responsible for deaths that then occur. CT already has strict gun laws; laws don't stop people that are willing to murder.

Are we only worried about death from guns, or the deaths themselves? Are we worried about crimes committed with guns, or crime in general? If a person is killed with a knife or a hammer they are just as dead and their families grieve just as much.

Why is there no correlation between increases in concealed carry and increases in gun crimes?
Why is there no correlation between areas in the US with strict gun control and decreases in gun crimes?
Why is there no correlation between areas in the US with lax gun control and increases in gun crimes?
Why do areas with higher gun ownership often have lower rates of gun crimes, and areas with lower gun ownership often have higher rates of gun crimes?
There doesn't seem to be a strong causal link on which to base the theory that gun control would have the desired affect in the US.

How can we justify potentially disarming the millions of people that protect themselves and others every year with guns? And how can any law that doesn't disarm these people prevent guns from falling into the hands of criminals? Adam Lanza didn't buy these guns, he stole them, unless we prevented his mother from obtaining them, or enact laws about how guns are stored that make them often useless for defense, how could he have been stopped by a gun control law?

Was his mother being responsible with her guns? I don't know. I doubt ANY of us do. Do I think that gun owners can do more to make it harder for guns to be accessed by others? Quite possibly. But a lot of that needs to be done by gun owners, not laws.

The only substantial impact a gun ban would likely have in my opinion is the reduction in accidental shootings, but that is the fault of the owners, not the guns.

I can't remember a mass shooting that wasn't at some form of "Gun Free" location, and that seems like a pretty big coincidence to me.

Posted by Bruce, Canada on December 23, 2012:

I read thru most of the commentary/input you have posted, or permitted to be posted. I understand the rationale since I often read some pretty awfull stuff in some sites and although I am not much for anything that resembles censorship there does need to be some editorial controls. It is a fine line at times, I know.

At one time my job was tending to people who were serving time for actions like the shootings and killings that have seized the media recently. Most were incarcerated in prison settings, and some of those in prison psychiatric settings. A few were in community psychiatric settings.

I got to deal with them after most of the hysterical reactions had calmed somewhat, and the facts had been settled mostly, usually through court sessions. I had access to the police, crown (Canadian version of the U.S. prosecutors) files, psychiatric and psychological assessments (including raw scores on any tests), social histories completed for the courts or mental health bodies, victim impact assessments, and victim statements (where there were survivors) and any material I might need to manage the sentence or term of incarceration. I also had personal contacts with the perpetrators during their incarceration and access to all reports by any person who was obliged to have contact with these people.

I also had contact with others, like myself, who were responsible for ongoing management of these people during their entire sentence and beyond in many instances. Some were released from custody at sentence expiry, or upon psychiatric board evaluation and etermination. Not all were subject to lifetime monitoring, but most were.

You noted that we need to ask the right questions in order that we work towards reducing or eliminating such horrible acts as we are now dealing with today.

I totally agree. I think the "we" is all of us, everywhere. The U.S. is not the only country where such acts occur. It is not just the means (tools) that must be part of the dialogue. It should be the why.

The dialogue should allow for the emotion that will be part of the response, but rise above that, as, emotional reaction and action is doomed to failure, is often tremendously expensive in resources and the restriction on freedoms some of us have come to enjoy. Too many people have died in the fight for our current freedoms to throw it away in the erronious notion that security will be achieved if we just give up a little of our freedom. Expression of grief can be therapeutic, but it is not a rational foundation for coherant action.

People will kill other people. We have been doing so almost from the beginning, or at least since we have been documenting our behaviour. There is some archeological evidence that predates any such documentation.

Maybe we should be considering the notion that we are prone to, or have a propensity to, harm ourselves. The question is then why?

Most of the people I have dealt with, and those I have consulted on with others, appear to meet a definition of being mentally unstable at least at the time of the deed. In each individual case it took some time to come to this determination. It was like the notion of peeling away the layers of the onion. The problem was that when we peeled away the last layer, there was nothing left. The last layer was just another layer. We no longer had an onion, or person, just a bunch of unintegrated layers, pieces, bits. We also had an enormous difficulty putting the layers back such that we had an onion again, or a person.

We also determined that attempting to be proactive was, although tempting, fraught with serious concerns, not the least being an inevitable violation of an individuals rights. Rights others in our past had died to create and protect, and which we all believed in.

What if we consider that events like this, sad and regrettable as they may be, are inevitable, and all we can do is pick up the pieces, nibble around the edges where it is clear that there is a course of action that does not pose a threat to our collective freedoms and rights.

Doing something to someone because they might do something because they fit some type of profile according to someone, or several someone's, is a recipe for a situation where, potentially, no one is free, and no one has rights.

Who do we sacrifice so that the rest of us can feel safe and secure -- and how many do we so offer up?

I also do not believe in the death penalty because we get enough wrong to make it clear we are not perfect enough to get that right.

Some thoughts as I hug my children and grandchildren.

Posted by James, Regina, SK, Canada on December 23, 2012:

Randy, in the way you scoffed at the words "trust the government", you seem to have defended the idea that people need to have guns in case they need to defeat their government. Let me be clear, I question authority and I don't trust the sneaks who usually all work for their rich buddies. But let's all agree that we can trust them to not oppress us, to not do us physical harm, and to basically not do anything else that would cause a sane individual to march to the capital packing heat.

When I suggest that maybe "every other civilized nation in the world" (besides the U.S.) has "got it right" I am not referring to any specific gun law or form of gun control. I was actually referring specifically to the second amendment which guarantees the right to bear arms. If there are other civilized nations that have guns woven into their fabric that strongly, I am not aware of them.

You may be right about what you say about the UK, but I have read enough on this page to conclude that none of us can actually say for sure which country is more violent given the different standards used to track violence.

Last, you say "some of us have more resources at our disposal than others if pushed hard enough -- which, by the way, reduces anxiety" but you're missing the fact that the reason that "resource" was acquired in the first place was just that -- anxiety! If there are "so many guns out there", then you must have one, too. And then your neighbour must, as well. And then as everyone gets better ones, you better get a better one, too. And so on. It will continue to escalate. (reminds me of the air conditioning concept -- you make your own house much cooler, but you warm the earth just that little, insignificant bit more)

Finding a way to de-escalate is the real challenge here. Or just save a hundred years and take this to its logical conclusion now -- gun classes starting in the 8th grade and mandatory packing in public by age 16.

---

Scoffing? Not at all: just matter-of-fact. Americans don't think much of government bureaucrats or politicians, and we're reminded of it every time there's another political scandal, or go to Motor Vehicles to get in line. As far as anxiety, I don't have any regarding fires in my home: but that doesn't mean I don't consider the possibility and do something to counter one if it happens. It's far from paranoia to get a few fire extinguishers. And again, it's much more likely that I'll need to deal with a predator -- two or four legged -- than a fire. And I don't have air conditioning in my home. -rc

Posted by Jacquelyn, New Orleans on December 24, 2012:

Everybody wants to have a "conversation" about gun control and mental health. I'd like to hear a national conversation about compulsory education and how it may or may not contribute to violence in schools.

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That does sound like another good discussion to have -- just not on this page. -rc

Posted by Gregory, Chicago on December 24, 2012:

I really, REALLY hate to post twice to the same group, but I mentioned earlier about a person who clearly did not get the references for what they are -- an example -- and emailed me taking me to task for not going and studying every last piece of news/gossip about the shooting, and that I shouldn't have an opinion unless and until I go and do the above.

This person then told me how gun control laws are changing and that it will help prevent this kind of tragedy, along with banning violent entertainment, and supported education -- namely evacuation of schools and hiding under desks.

Being the fact that I'm kind of an arse, I replied to her that I don't need to give publicity to the people that crave it (like the VA Tech killer) by reading and analysing every last piece of gossip about it, because it's the same pattern as VA Tech and Littleton. Whether or not this person did or did not have Asperger's is irrelevant. Whether or not he was "off", "odd", or "anti-social" isn't really the point. Whether or not he asked for help DEFINITELY isn't the point.

Being formerly married to a Canadian citizen, I can say that the notion of "Free health care" isn't everything it's cracked up to be (which isn't to say the US way of "pay me, and I'll think of caring" is), but it certainly couldn't hurt.

I made the point before about "gun control", which in the military means putting rounds on targets. I'm sure it's phrased a little more delicately for civilians, but the gist of it remains the same. While not an NRA apologist, I can see their point. Hunting rifles, handguns, etc. aren't the issue. The issue is what was brought up by another, the acquiring of semi-automatic (which was defined before) and/or automatic weapons that are NOT acquired legally. I have no grouse at all with a semi-automatic rifle (and to correct the earlier poster, the M16 stopped being fully automatic at the end of Vietnam. That was the M16A1. The M16A2, M16A4 and the M4 rifles are only semi-automatic) that is purchased and used legally, for whatever purpose. Weapons like an UZI or a fully automatic machine gun (not going to get into examples, since it would be over most people's heads!) are (as pointed out) already heavily regulated.

However, as stated, making new laws don't do a lick to someone who has no reason to care about them one way or the other.

New point. "Violent entertainment" is another "thing" that politicians do to "prove" they are "doing something" so that they may keep their jobs. Is such a thing responsible for anything? Let's see...I heard Cain watched a lot of slasher movies before killing Abel. Jack the Ripper was reputed to be a big fan of "Call of Duty" and both The Hillside Strangler and Son of Sam were also said to have every episode of "Homicide: Life on the Street" in their home.

"But wait", you say, "slasher movies didn't exist in the Bible! Call of Duty wasn't around during the time of Jack the Ripper! There wasn't such a thing as violent video games then! What about The Hillside Strangler and Son of Sam? That TV show wasn't on during their time!"

Riiiiiight! So I guess that you can be violent without TV and video games, huh? Not to mention that let's see...these companies pump out a few thousand video games a year, if not more. How come every person that has ever played them not become a mass murderer?

Randy, I admire you. I really do. My business partner always tells me that I should "play" more with the dinks (obliviots) that ask stupid questions, or do or say something dumb, and have a good time at it, rather than just tell them off right away, but I've never been able to "suffer fools gladly". I admire the talent you have to be able to not just go off on someone for being completely and totally oblivious to the obvious. It's something I need to work on.

No, I don't mean, "I don't like people that disagree with me". I have plenty of those, and am always a big fan of an alternative viewpoint/perspective, but for pity's sake, so many people refuse to use their brains and stop for ten seconds to THINK and not just REACT.

When I was in the military still, I took a Close Quarters Battle (CQB) course, and we were trained to speed load on the move, and also to be able to judge a threat vs. a non-threat in a "combat" (simulated) environment within less than a second (reaction time), because to delay and stop means you die in combat. This kind of thing teaches you that it takes a very brief period of time to be able to recognise things (even if it's apple or orange!), yet people still "react" with the same tired rhetoric that changes nothing.

I don't pay attention to the news, and rarely do. I don't feel the need to give in to the publicity that publicity hounds crave. I can still learn about what makes these people tick without giving in to what they desire and ultimately, use it to prevent further tragedy.

---

Welcome to my world, where there's always someone to nitpick and take things out of context. To risk nitpicking you, I'd like to clarify that no one "e-mailed you" to take you to task: they don't have your e-mail address. They commented here, and you subscribed to new comment notifications. I just want to make sure people don't think that commenting here opens them up to getting e-mails from random others. -rc

Posted by Rob, Rural Alberta Canada on December 24, 2012:

James from Regina: The U.S. has the 2nd amendment because of the principles on which the gov't was formed. You can't pick and choose which ones you want have there, as the WHOLE is what creates the country.

As Noah Webster said, "Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed, as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword, because the entire body of the people are armed and constitute a force greater than an bands of regular troops."

Yes, we can agree that at present there is no need to take up arms against the gov't -- that is not to say that there will not be a time in the future. It is the last great security that the people of America have to ensure their freedom. Until you understand that principle upon which the gov't of the US was formed, it will be difficult to understand anything about the current debate.

Posted by Joe in Maryland on December 24, 2012:

I don't know if the US is the only country to guarantee gun rights in their constitution, but I know we are one of the few that didn't start out trying to make the government more powerful then the people. People from other countries saying they know what is right for us is like saying we know what is right for you. Our countries and people are different no matter how small the world has gotten.

Plain and simple, in THIS country the right to own a gun is the same as the right to say what you want. If we were talking about speech control, press control, religion control, etc there would be a huge backlash. My owning any type of gun doesn't violate ANY of your rights.

What insults me the most is how most anti-gun people don't know what they want to ban. NYC mayor Bloomburg called a Ruger 10/22 an assault rifle because it had an aftermarket stock on it. The host of Meet the Press broke DC gun law by having a 30 round magazine in his possession during the taping of this week's show. People in my state have been posting state laws as proposals and asking if that would be enough control. Most of their anti-gun friends say that is enough without knowing those are the laws currently in effect.

If you don't live in the US, keep your noses out of what doesn't affect you. Our citizens owning guns doesn't have ANY affect on you, your country, or the rights you have in your country. If you live in the US, go educate yourself on the matter before saying what you think. If you don't know anything about guns, go to a gun forum and ask somebody to teach you. If you still think guns are bad, that is your right, but don't try to take my rights away without knowing what you are talking about.

Posted by James, Regina, SK, Canada on December 24, 2012:

Rob in Rural Alberta, I am obviously well aware of the principles on which the US government was formed 240 years ago, but that doesn't mean I need to agree that it still applies in any way today. You are realistic enough to agree that they don't need to wage war with their own government, but then you disclaim that with "that is not to say that there will not be a time in the future" -- even though that is one of the least likely things to ever happen in the future. That's the part that baffles me! We're talking about the USA here, not Syria or Somalia.

Randy, the point is well made that a home invasion is much more likely than a fire, but that isn't analogous to the escalatory nature of firearms. You getting a fire extinguisher doesn't contribute to the likelihood of others concluding "there are so many fire extinguishers out there, one might fall into the wrong hands and be used against me, therefore I had better get one myself now".

---

Except that you assume that everyone knows what others around them have. I don't know which of my neighbors have guns unless they tell me, and when they do, I don't care. It's not my neighbors that are likely to be a problem, is it? The more you explain "escalation" the more I think it's hogwash. -rc

Posted by Scott - Deployed, Horn of Africa on December 24, 2012:

When will everyone wake up and smell the Kafeh?

We must fear and regulate the use of rocks as weapons as the "Rock Culture" have historically proven themselves dangerous in our society. No more can we abide the use of rocks for self-defense. The military use of "Assault Rocks" is the only reason why any sane person would want to have rocks as weapons (See article on David). While we approve of the use of rocks and even assault rocks equipped with slings by trained military and security personnel, we feel that the average farmer, shepherd, herder or merchant has no real use for rocks other than to hire a mason to build for them homes and shops. Let us use rocks to build a peaceful world; not use them to kill our children.

Religious zealot in a fit of rage and jealousy beats his brother to death with a rock

David saves the Army of the Israelites! Uses a stone to kill his cousin Goliath

More timely and modern reports on the Assault Rock Culture:

More Details on Recent Murder: Man Beaten to Death with Rocks and Skateboard

Teens allegedly beat homeless Raleigh man to death with rock

Wake up and smell the coffee indeed! It is all about the violence in the soul, the evil in the heart, the Mens Rea and the Actus Reus, the evil mind and the evil act; not the weapon which comes to hand.

On a parting note, a vehicle and a knife, go figure.
The Akihabara massacre

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Now, were these automatic rocks? And is there a valid definition of Assault Rock? -rc

Posted by James, Regina, SK, Canada on December 24, 2012:

Joe, I'll take your advice and keep my nose out of things that don't affect me. But what you apparently don't realize is that practically EVERYTHING that happens in the USA affects Canada in a small or large way eventually. The USA is not a bubble. Canadians typically care way more about American politics than their own, and with good reason.

Randy: escalation. If literally no one had a gun, would anyone feel the need to get one? If literally everyone but you had one, would you feel the need to get one? Both answers are obvious. Obviously the USA is nowhere near either extreme and is somewhere in the middle, but it's obvious which way it is heading. That's escalation.

And you don't need to know what your neighbour has, or what any one particular person has, to know that there are millions of guns out there that could hurt you.

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Of course the answer is obvious -- but apparently not to you: of course I would still want a gun! Yes, even though the bears and mountain lions and badgers and other critters running around my property aren't armed. And you propose that we all stand naked as crazed intruders with knives, clubs, chainsaws, or bare hands go after our wives and children? Really: you're getting thicker and thicker with every message, James. -rc

Posted by Bob in Oklahoma on December 24, 2012:

People say "escalate" like it's a bad thing. Isn't escalation of violence the best way to end the violence? We saw what happens when you just sit there and go along with the bad men who want to hijack your plane, didn't we? Or have we forgotten that one of the planes hijacked in 2001 didn't get where it was supposed to go, because someone escalated the violence.

Jeff Cooper, a Shooter and wordsmith of some skill, once remarked:

One bleeding-heart type asked me in a recent interview if I did not agree that 'violence begets violence.' I told him that it is my earnest endeavor to see that it does. I would like very much to ensure -- and in some cases I have -- that any man who offers violence to his fellow citizen begets a whole lot more in return than he can enjoy.

---

Lt. Col. John Dean "Jeff" Cooper served in both WWII and Korea. After the military, he taught small arms combat to military personnel, and law enforcement officers, in a style which became known as the "Modern Technique". He died in 2006. -rc

Posted by James, Regina, SK, Canada on December 24, 2012:

Joe: I had to point out that this statement was a tad ironic: "People from other countries saying they know what is right for us is like saying we know what is right for you." -- off topic, but.... isn't that what the USA does.... all the time?

You sound legitimately threatened by someone's opinion, as though that opinion is all it will take to get the ball rolling on your "right" being taken away. Having an opinion doesn't constitute "sticking your nose in something". Trust me, this peaceful yet opinionated Canadian lacks the time, resources, ambition, and most importantly, the citizenship required to do anything to trample on what your country has turned into a "right", so please don't lose any sleep on my account.

Posted by Liz In Colorado on December 24, 2012:

James wrote "If literally no one had a gun, would anyone feel the need to get one?" - I am a 136Lb 5 ft 53 year old woman who lives alone. If no one else had a gun would I still want one. YES and again YES am I trying to make up for something YES. A gun is a great equalizer. And I am no match for an unarmed intruder without equalization.

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Large men intent on criminal acts are dangerous to small women whether or not the man is armed. Even without a gun, there are all sorts of things he can use to hurt people, including his bare hands. I don't understand why James can't grasp this, or the fact that there are dangerous four-legged animals, too. -rc

Posted by Phil - Quakertown, PA on December 24, 2012:

To add to "Liz In Colorado's" comment, you don't have to be a petite woman to be at a disadvantage in unarmed combat, or a knife or baseball bat attack.

I'm 5'10", in decent shape, capable of tackling car repairs, felling trees; I practice law for a living, so hostility is not a stranger to me; I feel competent to make the intellectual choice to shoot a dangerous predator, and I know that I could pull the trigger. But I also know, as a civilized human being with a degree of empathy and compassion, that I would most likely be unable to stab a man who was intent on stabbing me, or clubbing a man who was attacking me.

Decent people are viscerally reluctant to cause close and personal injury to other human beings, EVEN WHEN IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

Given a choice between a decent person dying and a malicious predator surviving to prey upon others, I vote for the innocent person having the means to effectively defend herself. That's usually going to mean a gun. Sometimes the required weapon will be something like an AR-15, as most police departments have found when dealing with a certain kind of predator. If cops need them to deal with criminals, then why wouldn't the targets of those criminals need them, too?

Posted by David in Utah on December 24, 2012:

James, Regina, SK, Canada - "let's all agree that we can trust them to not oppress us". Umm why would we all agree to something history has shown isn't the case? "March to the capital packing heat", would that be the "heat" you aren't legally allowed to have under gun control? "If literally no one had a gun, would anyone feel the need to get one?", quite frankly if someone attacks me with a knife I would much rather shoot them from a safe distance than try to use something close range and risk being stabbed. The nice thing about guns is they are AT LEAST as good as what an attacker may have and they reduce or eliminate the advantage a stronger attacker may have, many times even criminals with guns flee an armed victim rather than risk being shot themselves. "There are millions of guns out there that could hurt you", there are millions of cars out there, far more likely to "hurt" me than the guns are, the fact that you seem more afraid of the guns despite the statistics shows it to not be a fully rational fear. And my country didn't turn gun ownership into a right, they simply realized that the right to defend yourself was as naturally yours as your right to think or breathe, and wrote it down.

Guns are a tool, like a shovel, a shovel can be used to plant a garden to feed your family or it can be used to bludgeon them, but the shovel itself is neither good nor bad, the use is.

A gun isn't good or bad, how people use it is, and just like a shovel they are used FAR more often as a tool for good then used for evil. This is hard for many "gun-haters" to grasp, many of them believe that guns are intrinsically evil, and those people can't see it as a neutral tool.

240 years ago the founders established a system of government based on checks and balances, between the branches of government, between the federal government and the states, but the most important check was the people, and for that check to be effective the people need to be able to stand against an over reaching government. And the only way that the people can do that is if a sizable portion is armed. We should no more weaken the people's ability to defend themselves and their freedom then we should centralize power in the president.

Put another way, there will always be a small portion of people willing to use force to violate the rights of others. That always has been true. Under the US model the individuals have authority and responsibility to run society, and we delegate minimal power to government. Under this system that small portion of people are more capable of harming others, but the majority of people are also more capable of defending themselves. When power/authority is centralized, that small portion of people are less capable of harming others as easily, but the majority of people are also less capable of defending themselves and must rely on authorities arriving on time to defend them. But when power/authority is centralized you also run the risk that people from that small portion willing to violate the rights of others may actually end up in charge leaving you no way to defend yourself.

And to those arguing the constitution is outdated I say this: the constitution wasn't about technology, or a level of development, it is about human nature, about the fact that the strong oftentime go after the weak, that those with power often use it against those that don't have it. If you think that has changed you only need to look at Newtown, CT, a man with a gun and the power that just went with it just used it against helpless children. It is horrific, but so is what the Nazis did to the Jews, what Pol Pot did to Cambodians, what Stalin did to kulaks, what Mao did to 'Counterrevolutionaries', and what Assad is doing in Syria. Those in power often exploit those without power, that is not going to change, but by giving people the power and ability to defend themselves you can make it better.

And the escalation argument IS "hogwash". My neighbor having a gun doesn't scare me, in fact living in a neighborhood where gun ownership is high is likely to keep them safer in general. What concerns most people with guns I know are criminals with or without guns that are willing to hurt and/or kill to get what they want (in this case criminals includes the ones in DC).

Scott - Deployed, Horn of Africa: When will we institute reasonable restriction on the size and the number of rocks people can have and waiting periods with background checks, surely no one needs more than 5 rocks, and no one needs pointy rocks other than the military, and we need to institute laws on how we store rocks to keep them out of the hands of children and criminals.

Posted by David in Utah on December 24, 2012:

I was just reminded of a relevant anecdote.

During WWII after Pearl Harbor, the ruler of Japan was emboldened and wanted to try and invade the US mainland. The US military was fairly weak and believed to be unable to stop their military; the leader of the Japanese Navy was pro-ported to say "You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass."

Just like criminals often admit being their biggest worry when robbing a home or business is that the victim may be armed, so to should any foreign enemy worry about attacking our nation.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on December 24, 2012:

The question has come up in MY mind, as well. Just WHY does it matter to citizens of other countries that Americans are allowed the private ownership of guns. I'm not talking about someone offering their opinion, or even their lack of comprehension of the subject. That is, after all, simply opinion. But I've often seen an outright criticism of the doctrine of firearm ownership, and even vitriolic denigration of our right.

If you disagree with it, fine. Say so. But to demand that the U.S. change to become like your country, I have to wonder why it's so important. I've heard two arguments on the subject. One is that it's a response to the US telling other countries what to do. Is OUR lack of manners all the excuse needed for YOU to act likewise? The other response I've seen is that U.S. problems spill over into other countries. Come on, now! Terrorists with guns in your countries have come from just about everywhere BUT the U.S. And most of them are NOT supplied by the U.S. Certainly not by private U.S. citizens.

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on December 24, 2012:

This conversation is moving into deep political and philosophical waters. The USA is the only nation that I am aware of that was founded on the supremacy of the people over the government. This is why the constitution is mainly made up of things that are forbidden to that government. That is why the constitution says "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." In France people can be and are jailed for making fun of their government. In the Commonwealth states, in this case Canada: "Broadly, Canadians can be held liable by English Canadian courts for comments on public affairs, about public figures, which are factually true, and which are broadly believed. They cannot be held liable for opinion, inference, hyperlinking without explicit agreement with the content, reportage when this is based on honest research and journalistic ethics. Plaintiffs need not prove falsity, malice or damages. Politicians can, and do, sue including during elections for political advantage or to silence critics or accusers."

The founders of the USA believed that people are inherently flawed. Their objective in writing the foundation of our country was to make it impossible for just one or just a few corrupt individuals to destroy the nation. This is why there are 3 coequal branches of government, each able to be overridden by the other 2. This was why the states were set up as coequal to the federal government. This was why churches could not be controlled nor could the press, nor could the people be stopped from assembling and complaining.

Another concept in the founding of our nation is that our rights come not from the government or from men, but from basic unalterable rights that we are given as humans by God. After all, if a man gives you permission, he can also remove that permission. Within this is also that we do not have the ability to give our government the power to do something that would be criminal if we did it ourselves. Note this includes defense of our selves, our communities, and our nation. This is where the 2nd amendment comes from.

I have also read here how weapons of war are not included in the 2nd amendment. Bull. How many small towns had cannons on the town square? These were for defense of the community and most were originally purchased by individuals. These were the terror weapons of their age.

We have moved a long way toward destroying the distinctions that were ours. We have destroyed the coequal nature of the states. We are trying to eliminate churches as a power. We are coming close to the point where the office of the presidency (regardless of inhabitant) can act with impunity without regard to congress or courts and a compliant media stands aside and watches. Regardless if the president has a D or an R next to his name, he is becoming more and more a King. And criticizing a politician is becoming more and more dangerous.

Posted by Bergman, Seattle WA on December 24, 2012:

If the "obvious" solution to a perceived problem requires you to deny everyone on the planet an unalienable fundamental human right, then you have either arrived at the wrong conclusion, or your base assumptions were wrong.

Or you're evil, but that's actually a fairly rare condition among humans, partisan political hype aside.

Posted by Ann, Deer Lodge, MT on December 25, 2012:

I just want to comment on your response to Rob...Bravo!!!! Thank you!!! I wish more people would stop to think in this logical style! It's not the "tools" it is the intentions and actions that is the core problem here.

Posted by Angi, Texas on December 25, 2012:

When comparing countries, be sure what you're comparing. When England enacted their gun ban, GUN crime went down and rapes, robberies, and assaults went significantly up. 4 years after the ban, while still banned, gun crime rose to its previous levels. So temporarily GUN crime did go down, only to rise up later with the added "bonus" of increased rape, robbery, and assault.

When Australia enacted their ban, GUN crime lowered but again, rape, robbery, and assault climbed significantly. Australia's gun crime waited 6 years to rise to previous levels.

If you take a look at Nationmaster.com, where you can compare two countries, violent crime is MORE than in the US with DOUBLE the assault and rape occurring, except in Australia where you are 3 times more likely to be raped. Is gun crime lower? Yes, GUN crime is lower. Great, so you're less likely to get shot by your rapist or after they take your wallet. Myself, I'd rather not be raped in the first place. In the U.S. 800,000 to 2,400,000 crimes are STOPPED by a civilian carrying a weapon. STOPPED. Yet, we had only just over 9,000 gun deaths. 9,000 crimes vs. 800,000 NOT crimes...I'm REALLY bad at math, but even I can tell what's what here.

As a parent, I feel for these parents. I feel for them the same way that I feel for the parent who lost a child to a disease, or an allergic reaction, or a car accident (recently our Scout troop suffered a loss of a child hit by a car). It's really awful, but these things happen. My son is MORE likely to experience a loss due to a car than to be involved in any gun crime. He's 6 and has experienced the loss of a friend to a car. Because of where we live now, he'll probably make it to college, and perhaps beyond, without ever knowing a person who will die (or even robbed) from a gun. Because even with our "high" gun crime, you can go most of your life and never have it touch you.

You can't let emotion overwhelm reason and intelligence. Yes, any loss of life is awful, but you have to measure everything benefits vs. losses. The loss of children truly hurts us all, but it should not be used to abandon all logic and intelligence. When that little boy was killed by a car, NO ONE said "even one loss is too much". Why? Because it isn't too much. Cars are far too useful and convenient, so we're happy to keep them going even at the cost of a child's life. We blame the DRIVER, don't we? And well we should, it's the DRIVER, not the tool that is the problem. Why suddenly change it, other than your personal bias?

Posted by Mike from Dallas on December 25, 2012:

To continue from Jeffrey of Omaha, many have questioned whether the Right to Keep and Bear Arms includes possession of nukes and/or howitzers. Actually, it does. If you can make a nuke, then do it. But if it were that easy, every nation would have them. So you're left with trying to buy one. Where do you go, and how do you afford such a rarity? Same with howitzers. Where are you going to buy one? And trying to haul one to a school or mall for a mass killing will be noticed long before you get there.

That cute scene from Schwarzenegger's movie "Commando," where he breaks into a gun shop to access a secret vault of military weaponry, is flawed. It would take no time for authorities to realize the inside of the legitimate portion of the store bore no relation to the outside dimensions. And the clientele would be highly suspect to even the average cops.

As for military grade weapons? The Winchester Model 94 lever action rifle was derived from the Henry repeating rifle that was invented in 1860. The Henry was highly popular with Union soldiers who used it to make up for their city-bred lesser accuracy against the superior aim of Confederate rural soldiers and their single-shot rifles. The Henry was one of the earliest assault rifles. So are shotguns, specifically designed for their scatter to cause maximum injury and multiple targets.

As for the 2nd Amendment being written at a time of muzzle loaders and not applicable to today's weaponry, the same can be said for the 1st Amendment in today's technology of instant and mass communications. And equally as invalid a supposition.

Posted by Richard, England on December 26, 2012:

Angi's figures would be truly horrifying if they were accurate. Sadly they are neither accurate nor unbiased. It is true that, according to Nationmaster, the rate of reported rape is higher in the UK than in the USA -- the true figure is 125%, not 300%. I can conceive of no connection between this and the greater UK restriction on firearms since even prior to the complete ban on pistols following Dunblane, it was illegal for individuals to carry loaded firearms on their person, and this has been the case since before WW2). I can see, though, a possible connection between the recent increase in reported rapes and the greater anonymity now given to rape victims (remember, unlike, say, homicides, rapes can only be classed as crimes if they are reported -- and many people, understandably, choose not to report the offence).

Angi mentions -- almost in passing -- that yes, gun crime is lower in the UK but chooses not to tell us by how much. Well, according to her chosen source the rate of murders by firearms in the USA is 668 times as great as in the UK. Nationmaster does not say whether this figure is pro-rated by population, but even if it is not, dividing the figure by 5 still gives an answer of over 133 times as great. The USA ranks higher than the UK on many other crimes as well -- and lower on others. Just choose the statistic you wish to use to prove your point.

It is also misleading to talk about "gun crime" as if that were just one kind of offence. In the UK it is a crime to carry a gun of any kind, concealed or openly, without a specific permit to do so. So anyone caught with a gun -- even if it is unloaded and unused, adds another unit to the gun crime figures.

Gun-related injuries and deaths have increased in the decade to 2008/9 -- by about 89% -- but again the figures are very low (1760). In the USA the figure was nearly 40,000 for homicides alone. Gun crime -- all gun crime including simple possession -- is less than 0.2% of all UK crime.

No matter how you spin the figures it is an indisputable fact that gun murders in the UK are only a very small fraction of what they are in the USA; why this might be I will leave others to argue about -- but I reckon I have a pretty good idea.

---

Unfortunately, there's not a way to compare knife crime stats there; I'd wager it's higher in the UK than the US. There is, however, an interesting Murders (per capita) Chart. Neither the UK nor the US is in the Top 37, but Australia is (#18, at a tiny bit over 17 murders per million people), and even gentle New Zealand (#29, with 5.8). Number one by far is Turkey, with an astounding 184+ murders/million inhabitants in 2006 (the latest available stats). I'm frankly surprised not to see the US on that list. Maybe we're not quite as violent as people think. -rc

Posted by Laura, Maine on December 26, 2012:

I think that smart gun technology seems like a solution that most people, both pro-gun-rights and pro-gun-control, could get behind. I'm not a gun owner, but I would feel better about having a gun if I knew that it was unlikely to be turned against me (which is what happened to the owner of the gun used in the Newton, CT shootings). I say "unlikely" and not "impossible" because it doesn't say the false positive identification rate -- but even if it was 10% (10 times the false negative rate), I think that advantage would more than make up for the disadvantage of a 1% false negative rate.

The smart gun technology could make stealing guns less attractive. If you wanted to deter gun theft but allow a robust secondhand gun market, you could institute a title system similar to cars -- if you want to change the grips the gun recognizes, you have to have your title.

---

No bias in that article: it baldly says that "gunmakers don't care". I'd say that it's a matter of lawsuits: what if the tech fails and the honest gun owner is killed by an intruder? BIG lawsuit. A gun might sit for 10 years and not be used, and suddenly it's needed Right Now. Will the battery be dead by then, making the "smart" gun a dumb lump of metal? Another lawsuit. There could well be technologies to make guns safer, but again, we have to look at the unintended consequences. -rc

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on December 26, 2012:

To those who say only soldiers need guns I want to tell 3 stories. In each case, war is a memory of our fathers. There has been no conflict for 50 years.

My beaches are a playground for the rich and powerful. My banks, schools, and hospitals are among the best in the world. My people are in general wealthy and multicultural. What could happen to me?

I am a powerhouse in both food and manufacturing. Resources are abundant. Wealth is rising. I have a strong military and have few foreign rivals. Sure there are red states and blue states, but what could happen to me?

I am modern, wealthy, and well known. My culture is advanced. My people are wealthy and peaceful. I even have recently hosted the Olympics to a grand success. Why should I worry?

Lebanon, USA (civil war), Sarajevo.

Posted by Laura, Maine on December 26, 2012:

How do you get from "No one is proposing that it is ideal that someone can carve up 5 people in a frenzy with a knife -- but that is a far better outcome than them shooting dead 20 people," to "give them somewhat-less-lethal tools and be oh-so-self-satisfied that they're not killing quite as many people in shopping malls, theaters, and schools."

Are you "oh-so-self-satisfied" that auto deaths have dropped from 5.41 deaths/100 million miles driven to 1.1 deaths/100 million miles? Do you think that children being killed in car crashes is ACCEPTABLE?!

I think you have a lot of good points; I don't see why you need to use strawmen. (I'm middle-of-the-road on the gun issue in general.) It's one thing to say that a proposed way to reduce deaths will have unacceptable costs or that it won't be very effective; it's another to imply that anyone advocating a policy that won't bring the murder and wounding rate down to zero doesn't care about the remaining victims. I'm all for giving chemo to children with cancer if we think their chances of survival are better, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't rather have a cure for cancer.

Also, FWIW, I don't think that the people you quote up top don't realize that they're not solving underlying problem (people wanting to kill a bunch of people), I think that they don't think it's possible to solve it. I disagree that nothing can be done about the underlying causes, but I can understand why they feel that way.

I think that we can learn more from our opponents -- or at least refine our arguments -- when we take them seriously instead of dismissing them as either unable to understand our arguments or painting them as apathetic to the deaths of children (or as too emotional, for that matter).

---

Laura, your conclusion is ridiculous. I said very clearly in the auto analogy that "That's progress... [but] there's still a long way to go." To conclude that I therefore think that "children being killed in car crashes is ACCEPTABLE" is outrageous, even as you callously dismiss a dramatic reduction in child death. And then you argue that what a bad thing it is to "paint [people] as apathetic to deaths of children"?! You did, at least, clearly illustrate what the problem is in how people think. -rc

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on December 26, 2012:

One other point for the controllers. You want to ban large capacity magazines. Is anyone aware of how simple they are? Any competent sheet metal worker can make one from scratch of any size. It has an inclined plate on top of a spring. The measurement that is critical is to fit the gunstock. Easy Peasy. By the way, I am not a gun owner at present, but in the military I earned the Gold Schutzenschnur, so I know my weapons.

---

It's actually fairly easy to make a gun, let alone a magazine. And thanks for using the right term: they're not "clips". :-) -rc

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on December 27, 2012:

Ya gotta watch this Penn & Teller show.

---

From their "Bullshit" series, this one on Gun Control, and a rare episode it is: there's no nudity! -rc

Posted by David in Utah on December 27, 2012:

Don't agree 100% on everything with Penn & Teller, but they always do a good job of presenting their position in a rational, although humorous, way. And I don't seem to detect superiority or smugness which is always nice.

---

I don't agree with everything P&T present either, but you can pretty much count on it being entertaining! -rc

Posted by Angi, Texas on December 27, 2012:

Sorry I didn't respond sooner, but I ended up with a nasty case of the flu. Richard, simply stating my numbers are biased doesn't make them so. WHY are they biased? Is there any proof to such a statement? As far as I'm concerned my figures are accurate until you PROVE they are not. Quoting will not do me, you must link (or at least give where you got the information). I find most gun control believers have the shakiest statistical foundations, which is why I'm on the other side.

Comparing direct number to number stats on the US and the UK is laughable, at best. We have over 3x the amount of people you do, though I do say, knowing that and having seen some of the real numbers on there (not the per capita), you're REALLY close in crime to us in many ways and over us in violent crime. That's a lot scary.

My actual point is the ridiculous "gun crime". You are all perfectly willing to accept the all encompassing term "gun crime" when it pertains to the US, without any clarifications or separations, but I bring your nation in and suddenly "she forgets that the UK includes THIS type of gun crime and that's why our numbers are special". I think it's a simple case of intentional blindness to the facts. You're not special. It's all the same. OUR gun crime includes several things that it should not in the honesty of true debate, no one wants to sift through THOSE numbers. Just their own. If you want to play that game, then you cannot accept the US numbers at face value either. Especially since the DoJ and FBI show that the majority of our gun crime is actually criminal vs criminal, not criminal vs innocent, as some would like you to believe. Two dope dealers shooting one another is a "gun crime", but is it really at the same level as one drug dealer shooting an innocent in a break in? I don't think so. To truly have a debate over this we have to break it down to vs innocent, vs criminal, accidental, suicide, Washington DC gun crime (which is different from Florida gun crime since DC has (had?) a gun ban and gun crime there includes just owning a gun). Of course, DC (a single city) used to have a much higher rate of crime than the entire state of Florida, a CCW state. I need to check the updated statistics on that; I think they no longer have a ban and their crime has lowered. It would be an awesome comparison. Have to make a note to check that.

Also, I find it fascinating that you are all so focused on gun crime that you fail to note that while your gun crime may be (debatable) somewhat low, your other types of violent crime are TWICE ours. So you ONLY care about gun crime? Rapes and robberies and assaults are what, not relevant? I think they are plenty relevant to this discussion. Have you ever interviewed your criminals? We have and you know what we found? Most of them would rather be shot by a policeman than a civilian. They prefer unarmed victims. Hardly surprising, and VERY relevant to the conversation. You cannot ignore the rise of other types of crime in relation to gun ownership. There is a relationship and ignoring it only keeps you from fully exploring the problem and finding an answer.

Posted by Tom, Decatur on December 28, 2012:

In your response to Jim in Winnipeg on December 14 you said studies show civilians with guns make far fewer errors and are much more accurate than police officers when they use guns to stop crimes. Can you steer me in the direction of these studies? I have several disbelieving acquaintances.

---

The numbers I have are getting old, but they're either from John Lott's book, and/or from Kleck's book mentioned above, apparently based on a study by, or reported in, Newsweek magazine that found that the error rate in shootings by police is 11% -- they shot the wrong (innocent) person 11% of the time, which is shockingly high. When civilians shoot someone in an attempt to stop crime (which is rare: they usually don't have to actually shoot at all), they get the wrong person 2% of the time. So the slander that "untrained civilians" can't really do anything with guns to stop crime is not only untrue, they do a better job of it than the police. That still doesn't leave you with a link to point your friends to, but hopefully someone else will comment of they know of one. And I'd still like to see a more recent study, and be able to go through the numbers myself. -rc

Posted by Richard, England on December 28, 2012:

Anji, the most charitable response I can give to you is that you did not read my post properly.

Your numbers are biased because they have been selected to prove your point. You have deliberately chosen those figure that show the USA in a better light than the UK. I have not done this, neither have I chosen various sources to find the one that most supports my case. I used the same source -- Nationmaster -- as you did. I do not need to prove my or your figures -- they are Nationmaster's, and you can check them.

To take your points in order.

I gave both the per capita figures for gun homicides and the total figures. Per capita the US rate is 133 times as great as in the UK; the total figure is 688 times as great. No matter how much you try to spin the figures, you can't spin that one. And, incidentally, I took the US population as approximately 5 times that of the UK, not 3.

I did NOT use the "all encompassing term "gun crime'" for the US figures; I used the figure for homicides. The vague term "gun crime" I used for the UK. Had I been able to find a figure for US gun crime I would have used it -- it would have shown that the true difference is even more staggering.

Nationmaster has no figure for violent crime; it has a figure for assaults. The definition of assault varies from country to country and comparisons are meaningless (in many countries assault means attack that causes injury; in the UK it is simply attack) -- which is why I made no comparisons.

There is no point at all in trying to compare knife crime between our two countries using Nationmaster as it does not have the figures. And guessing proves nothing.

You mention the fact that much gun homicide in the USA is criminal on criminal and I am sure you are right. But in in the UK that figure is close to 100% since nobody except criminals and a few police carry firearms. There have been a few (two in the past decade I believe) cases of armed police shooting civilians in the UK. That aside all gun homicides have been criminal on criminal or criminal on innocent bystander. There have been no homicides by users of legally held firearms since Dunblane.

You suggest that "other types of crime" has risen since the ban on gun ownership -- which other crimes (apart from rapes) do you refer to?

Posted by Mike from Dallas on December 29, 2012:

There has long been a pervasive value system I've carried that's been the basis for my arguments, but I've never articulated it. So forgive my rambling as I attempt to do so, now.

The question asks why God would give Free Will to Adam & Eve when there is a penalty for exercising it. While forcing someone to the "straight and narrow" will avoid the proverbial wrong decision, it also eliminates the possibility of genius that unexpectedly advances the race as a whole. In other words, if you want GREAT rewards, then you must willingly accept GREAT risks.

I think that's the basis of the Founding Fathers in our system of government. Better to risk in order to achieve greatness, than accept mediocrity and stagnation as the price of security and safety. Yes, SOME people will abuse those freedoms to great evil, but others will exercise those same freedoms to make lives better for everyone else.

So now we're left with YOUR beliefs. Are most people mean, rotten, vicious, no good, evil, disgusting creatures that must be watched and restricted every moment? Or are most people good, well meaning, helpful, honorable, noble beings that don't deserve to be caged for the sake of safety?

While 26 deaths in a single incident is horrifying, especially when 20 of them are innocent children, it's still a tiny number when 6,600 people die each and EVERY day in the U.S. from all causes (CDC.gov). No, I WON'T like it when it happens to one of mine, but I still won't demand that the rest of the country give up their liberties for MY (false) perception of safety.

Posted by Robert in Missouri on December 29, 2012:

@Mike from Dallas:

Interesting argument. The only thing I care to add is a quote by Benjamin Franklin: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Posted by Laura, Maine on December 30, 2012:

I'm not sure if my followup comments didn't go through or you declined to publish them -- I suspect the latter, but just in case it's the former, here's a new (possibly-better-written) version:

--There's a reason why I phrased my second paragraph as a [rhetorical] question, and sandwiched it between two paragraphs leading to a "No" answer to that question -- i.e., saying that it's not reasonable to think that if someone proposing a method that they believe will reduce deaths, then they're OK with the remaining deaths. I think in that context, the only reason it [apparently] wasn't obvious what I was getting at is that you've already made up your mind that I'm an "obliviot" who's attacking you. I think that it's obviously ridiculous to say that you're pro-car-crash-deaths -- I agree with you on that. Why wasn't it equally obvious to you that it's ridiculous to say that about other people?

--The author of the "smart gun" article was biased. So what? Do you never hear good ideas from people with whom you disagree? As for the added maintenance, I'm surprised that expecting gun owners to maintain their guns regularly is at all controversial. I would think that the responsible ones already maintain their guns regularly. To just slightly alter your fire extinguisher analogy, I'm expected to check my smoke detector batteries every year if I want my smoke detector to actually work.

---

I never saw a reply, so it was indeed the former. Sure I can get ideas -- even good ones -- from people I disagree with. But I don't take horribly biased articles and then conclude that the clearly flawed technology touted "seems like a solution that most people, both pro-gun-rights and pro-gun-control, could get behind." There's getting ideas, studying them for feasibility and thinking about their negative consequences, and swallowing them whole as a great "solution". That doesn't mean there isn't technology that might help, but you'll have to try a lot harder than that. -rc

Posted by Bob in New Jersey on December 30, 2012:

Re Richard, England's comments.

You put the US's per capita murder rate as 133, or 688 times the UK's rates. According to Wikipedia, the numbers are nowhere near that slanted. They are using stats from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. According to them, the US murder rate is 4.2 per 100,000 or 12,996 total in the most recent year they have stats for. The UK rate is 1.2 per 100,000 and 722 total. That puts the US at roughly 3.5 times the rate of the UK, not hundreds. If we use the totals and your estimate of the US being 5 times the size of the UK, the totals fall in the same ballpark as well.

I agree that much of the US homicide rate is criminal on criminal. We have a major drug problem that I do not believe the UK has, and our mental health safety net seems to be a lot worse than the UK's. Some of our cities have literal wars over drug corners, and the rate of crime to support drug habits has to be a major chunk of the total. If these are factored in, I suspect that our rate would be less than twice what the UK's is.

Posted by Richard, England on December 30, 2012:

Bob, I used the Nationmaster figures as did Anji. I didn't bother to check to find others and certainly didn't look to find a source that supported my argument. But since you mentioned it I did check Wikipedia's figures, these are the ones I have found. They show 0.12 for the UK (not 1.2) and 2.97 for the USA -- both per 100,000 and both 1999 figures.

I make that 24.75 times greater than the UK -- less than the Nationmaster figures but still shocking. You could probably find other figures as well -- but I'll bet you you'll never find one that shows that the USA's gun homicide rate is less than the UK's -- or even close to it.

What I find incomprehensible is that US gun supporters do not seem to accept one simple point: if there are no guns then there can be no gun homicides. That we still have gun homicides in the UK is simply because there are still guns around in the hands of criminals. We will probably never get rid of them all but that is the laudable aim of our Government. After all, no ordinary persons actually needs to carry a firearm. Stupid red herrings about the need to defend oneself against wild animals are just -- stupid.

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Clearly you don't live in the wild west -- which contrary to your apparent opinion does still exist. And you don't have much standing to sneer that people won't accept clear points: you won't accept the human right to defend one's self -- and that when you ban guns, criminals turn to other weapons, just as they have done in the U.K. Your murder rate is lower? Lovely for you. Your "knife crime" rates are far higher, your assault rates are far higher, your rape rates are far higher, your robbery rates are far higher (etc.) because your citizens have been disallowed to defend themselves. In the U.S., we still have that right, because our government has been set up in our constitution to be less powerful than the citizens (though lately, it has been pushing those limits). As Mike from Dallas said quite eloquently above, "While forcing someone to the 'straight and narrow' will avoid the proverbial wrong decision, it also eliminates the possibility of genius that unexpectedly advances the race as a whole. In other words, if you want GREAT rewards, then you must willingly accept GREAT risks." We DO accept that. You chose not to. That's fine: get over OUR choice. -rc

Posted by Bob in New Jersey on December 30, 2012:

Richard, I used the total murder figures as I refuse to get into the guns vs knives argument in any other way. I understand that we have a higher overall rate.

You are certainly correct that if we had no guns, that the firearm death rate would go down. However, it would take decades to get the guns off the streets and in our society the cost in lost lives from self defense that can't take place is not (IMO) worth it.

Our society is different from yours. I choose to accept a bit higher firearm death rate in exchange for the extra measure of self determination that our government provides.

Please compare your TOTAL rate to ours as when you look that way, my figures are accurate. Or, look at your rate for knives and compare that to ours as well. I'll bet that yours is much higher than ours. Should we in the US suggest that since your knife rate is higher than ours that YOU should ban knives? For some reason, the stats to make that comparison are not available. Perhaps because it would support the idea that we have a higher murder rate and that it would remain higher regardless of what is banned? Legislation that just serves to move deaths from one category to another and costs us the equalizer that a pistol provides is not welcome.

BTW, I am all for reasonable gun control. Background checks, go for it! Waiting periods, fine. Pull owned weapons from those who commit crimes, OK.

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on December 30, 2012:

Bob, "BTW, I am all for reasonable gun control." I will consider any gun control plan with 3 requirements. 1) It cannot violate the 2nd amendment by banning guns or the carrying thereof. 2) It cannot simply be another law that duplicates the hundreds of laws already on the books. 3) It must be probable that THIS law will actually cure more problems than it will cause.

Current examples of banning some mythical assault weapons or reducing magazine size fail #2 and #3. I say mythical since the only difference between an "assault weapon" and a rifle is that an assault weapon looks more "scary". After all, it may have a flash suppressor, or bayonet lugs, or a fancy stock, or..... BS folks.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on December 30, 2012:

Whether the UK has fewer gun crimes than the US, they do still have gun crimes. Unfortunately, the criminals are the innocent citizens... sorry... subjects.

UK man convicted for turning in found gun to police.

While it's tempting to criticize the UK for its treatment of its own people for attempting to rid the streets of firearms by convicting them for it, it's ridiculous for the UK to criticize 85 million legal US gun owners for the crimes they haven't committed.

(Yes, he ended up NOT having to serve 5 years; however; he STILL carries the conviction on his criminal record in addition to the time and expense to defend himself.)

Posted by Phil, Gilford NH on December 30, 2012:

Richard in the UK: The problem with the idea that if there are no guns, there can be no gun homicides, is that you can't get rid of all guns. Period. Not possible. That genie is not going to go back into the bottle. There is a huge global black market already, and even if all civilian production and sales were ended, that market would continue to be resupplied as long as nations continue to maintain armies. There is a huge pool of unregistered firearms with no records existing on them, and in the last resort, you can make your own in your garage. Someone recently posted a pictorial on how he made a functioning AK47 receiver from a shovel. You can fabricate an AR15 receiver on a 3D printer. For that matter, imprisoned felons have constructed zip guns in their cells.

You can't un-invent guns any more than you can un-invent the printing press, or fire. That horse long since left the barn. Deal with it. Criminals will always be willing to violate the laws to tip the odds in their favor (I understand that the UK's gun ban has led to the innovation of a criminal gun rental industry -- if you have to fire it, you dispose of it and pay the cost of replacing it). All "gun control" can do is ensure the victims are disarmed and can't fight back.

Bob in New Jersey -- You wouldn't have to suggest that the UK ban knives. They are already doing it. The only question is whether Parliament's next step will be to ban hand tools, pointed sticks, or fresh fruit.

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Ooh! Fresh fruit! I wrote about Britain trying to contain "knife crime" way back in 2005. The story title -- Another Symptom of the Same Disease -- was another way to say what was argued on that page, and elsewhere on this blog: "The problem isn't weapons, the problem is violence. Unless that's addressed, banning arms -- either firearms or the limbs hanging from your shoulders -- isn't going to fix the problem, is it?" Not much has changed. Now I look forward to the first law to address "fresh fruit crime". -rc

Posted by JimJ, Lansing, MI on January 1, 2013:

@Phil of Gilford: Availability of guns is not the only cause of even gun-specific violence, and Duggan isn't naive enough to suggest that. In fact, the paper specifically mentions that gun violence was falling generally during the study period (or perhaps only in some areas -- it has now been a few weeks since I read the paper), and that the reduced gun ownership (or gun enthusiasm) explained only 1/3 of that reduction. I can certainly make an educated guess at possible explanations for portions of the remaining 2/3, but the paper itself did not do so.

@Mike of Dallas: Actually, the US is a major source of illegal guns in at least parts of Mexico; I have no information about Canada or the UK.

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It's a bit disingenuous to ignore the "Certainly not by private U.S. citizens." when dismissing Mike's point. -rc

Posted by Bob in Oklahoma on January 2, 2013:

The US-Mexico gun link is tenuous at best. Reports say something to the effect that "80 % of guns traced come from the US." What we've never found out is how many guns are traced. If they only trace 39 guns out of 1500 (making up numbers here to make a point), then that's only 31 guns out of 1500, or 2% of all guns. We also never hear of any prosecutions of investigations about how these guns got to Mexico. We also never hear about the sources for all of the other guns. So the idea that "the US is a major source of illegal guns in Mexico" is very weak.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on January 2, 2013:

JimJ of Lansing states that the US is a major source of illegal guns in at least parts of Mexico. That's an old and proven falsehood. The actual statistic was that 90% of the guns SUBMITTED to BATFE for trace originated in the US. However, the huge majority of guns are never submitted to BATFE since they obviously did not originate in the US. Only 17% of guns are submitted by Mexico to BATFE, and of THOSE, 90% were found to have originated in the US. Or 15% of the illegal guns in Mexico.

HOW they originated is not defined. The statistics do not specify whether they were sold by individuals, by gun stores, by home burglary thefts, military armory thefts, or black market by way of Guatemala from east Africa first. Watch out for statistics. As Mark Twain said, "There are three kinds of lies. There are Lies, DAMNED Lies, and Statistics." Twain also said, "He uses statistics as a drunken man uses a lamp post; for support rather than illumination."

Posted by TG, New Mexico on January 4, 2013:

One thing that irks me about the response to this particular shooting is that the mainstream media has been constantly asking why people need semiautomatic rifles. I wasn't aware that the second amendment included any "need" clause. If you're going to ask why people need AR-15s, why not ask why alcohol or motorcycles are necessary? After all, "reasonable restrictions" on motorcycles would save thousands of lives, and making it harder to get booze will make all the problems associated with it go away, right? I'm tired of the band-aid mentality of our media and government, which implies that shortsighted fixes can provide real solutions.

Posted by Phil, Gilford NH on January 4, 2013:

TG in NM, we tried that alcohol thing once already, just like we tried banning "assault weapons" once already. The best that can be said of the 1994 AW ban is that it did no known direct harm. The whole alcohol-prohibition thing? Not so much. It basically created present-day organized crime in the US.

"Need" is, of course, the wrong question. But special-interest lobbies in the US have become adept at derailing what should be straightforward issues by deliberately asking the wrong question. If you're trying to convince people to choose the wrong answer, one of the best tactics out there is to start by convincing them to answer the wrong question.

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on January 4, 2013:

Phil, I am offended by your post. You should not be able to say such things. Why do you need to say such things. There is no need for you to disagree with those people who are in power because they are so much smarter than you. Since there is no need for you to speak, you should be silenced.

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Heyyyyy... I see what you're doing there! -rc

Posted by TG, New Mexico on January 5, 2013:

Phil, I actually do think that bans are retarded. I was trying to be sarcastic to prove the point that banning anything is stupid. Sorry if I was unclear. I am fully aware of alcohol Prohibition and all the problems it caused. The current "war on drugs" is another example of why prohibiting things is problematic. I think you're fully correct in your observation that wrong questions lead to wrong answers. When the MSM asks why people need semiautos, it starts everyone down the path towards fake solutions to real problems.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on January 5, 2013:

TG, Jeffrey, and Phil are all saying the same thing. There is no need to justify "need." My parents grew up as children during the Great Depression. For them, having just one car was a luxury, not a necessity. Even today, it's still a difficult concept to grasp that our mobile society works easier when there are two cars or more in a single family. So their question is, "Why do you NEED a second car?" We don't. It's a convenience. It serves our purpose. Because we CAN.

Problem is, human nature seems to DEMAND that we protect others from their own fallacies. If we decide WE don't need something for ourselves, then no one else needs it, either. Therefore, we must protect them from their faulty decisions. And if it's possible for someone to be hurt by that faulty decision, then it's all the more paramount to protect everyone from that faulty decision, as we've defined it for ourselves.

We've turned into a society of Nannies who've taken it upon ourselves to babysit everyone else, even though not a one of us has suffered personally from the results of those decisions. As much as I disagree with Sarah Brady, at least she has an excuse. The rest are nothing more than patronizing busy bodies convinced of their own personal righteousness, and hellbent to prove it to the public in general.

I'm already expecting the next argument, that enough votes in society establishes the social definition of "need." And THAT is the reason for our Constitution. It exists above majority vote. It protects us ALL from the tyranny of the majority. Attributed to Ben Franklin, "Democracy consists of two wolves and a lamb voting on dinner. Liberty is a well-armed lamb."

Posted by TG, New Mexico on January 5, 2013:

Mike, you are absolutely correct. Just because you don't "need" something doesn't mean that you can't have it. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are, unfortunately, unable to comprehend this basic fact. When Sen. Feinstein tries to ban semiautomatic rifles, she assumes that she knows better than anyone who disagrees with her and her idiotic policies. I would, however, disagree that Sarah Brady has any excuse for being a busybody. Her husband was shot, but that fact does not give her carte blanche to try to force her opinions on others. Such behavior is immoral and inexcusable in virtually all cases.

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on January 5, 2013:

Mike, I think you mistake one thing here. The progressives of the 20th (and now 21st) century believe strongly in Geniocracy. That is government by the smartest among us. And of course, they are by definition the smartest. This is the smart professors, editors, and politicians. This is why we have the constant appeal to authority and constant attacks on people who disagree as stupid.

This bias leads the "nannies" to prescribe everything from how you work and play to how you eat and sleep. It gives them the right to micromanage every life.

On the flip side are people like me who want minimal government and allow me to either fail or succeed, live or die based on my own ideas. IMO, that is preferred because people observe other people and adopt strategies that succeed making it very likely that we will constantly improve. Also, It assures that while some will be failures, some will have success. If the controller rules everything is fine as long as he never makes a mistake. If he does, 100% of people suffer. And we know how often these experts make mistakes. About as often as any single "not so smart" person does.

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Sorry, but I haven't found too many in government ("progressives" or otherwise) that I would consider geniuses. The truly smart ones ran for the exits in the 70s, if not before. -rc

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on January 6, 2013:

Randy, you wrong me. I don't think they are. I just think that they and their supporters in academia and the media think he is. For example, Tom Shales of the WaPo recently called Obama "the smartest kid in the class." Billionaire Julian Robertson claimed, "Obama, from all I read, thinks that on every occasion that he is the smartest person in the room. And I think he often probably is...."

And how do they talk about their political opponents? They seldom address the actual issues, but from Ford to Reagan, to both Bushes, they are stupid, an amiable dolt, and other such descriptions.

And they think they are smart because they agree with each other and think opponents are not because anyone with a brain would have to see the "truth".

This flows into the egotism you see in telling us how to eat, demanding the right to raise your children, decide your medical treatment, and (going full circle to the topic of this blog) decide on when and if to use deadly force.

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Thanks for the clarification. I think Obama is reasonably intelligent, even if I hate his speaking style ("...annnnnnnnnd..." -- *shudder*!) I don't know what their IQ scores might have been, but off the top of my head I'd guess our most intelligent presidents over the past half century (ok, I have to stretch that a little) were Eisenhower and Kennedy. After that, they were so "handled" by "advisors" that it's pretty hard for any intelligence to shine through. -rc

Posted by Katy, Athens, GA on January 11, 2013:

I would point out that 100 percent of those who kill have been born from parents. Maybe the problem is that people are born. Stop the new babies being born, stop all murder! Simple.

(that was not meant seriously, but to point out some of the ridiculous analogies people keep trotting out)

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But it would work! -rc

Posted by Gregory, Chicago on January 11, 2013:

Hey, Katy (GA)

I like the way you think! D'ya think we should shoot everyone to prevent all these new babies who will one day grow up to murder everyone (with guns, no less)?

Posted by Stephen, Idstein Germany on January 16, 2013:

It's a shame that you don't recognize the deterioration of society and its values as part of the reason for the increased number of shootings.

Tell me that this is normal behavior and I will back off of the video/game argument.

Let the kids grow up with violent behavior like this, and it has nothing to do with them going off the deep end in such a severe manner?

Posted by Gregory, Chicago on January 16, 2013:

Absolutely, Stephen,

Violent entertainment started off in the Bible. If there wasn't violence on TV, Cain would have never killed Abel! Jack the Ripper would never have killed anyone if there wasn't such violent video games out there for him to watch.

I am a firm believer in banning video games. We also need to ban tobacco (causes cancer), alcohol (causes drunkenness and kills brain cells and liver damage), cars (can be used to kill someone), airplanes (can be hijacked and used to kill people), any sort of thing that can be used as a weapon (including kitchen utensils -- eat with your hands!), bowls, glasses, and plates (can be broken and hurt someone), video games (all of them), TV (rots your brain), radio (so we don't hear the hurtful news), and speaking of hurtful, your posting was very hurtful, and I didn't like it, so I want to be able to ban that.

Candles need to be banned, because they can start fires, and that includes matches and lighters and anything that can create a spark, concrete (you know that can hurt if someone were to fall on it), helicopters (a rotor blade can chop off a limb), bicycles and motorcycles (someone can fall off of them), dishwashing detergent (can create explosives), bleach (same), kitchen cleanser (ditto), glass (very sharp if broken, and I can't take the risk of someone accidentally breaking it and cutting themselves. I would feel awful if someone I didn't know were to improperly handle a piece of glass and get hurt).

Obviously, movies and records can hurt. Every record ever made has backwards lyrics. If a band as "whitebread" as The Beatles has backwards messages, how can I be sure that the latest Britney Spears album doesn't?

I DEFINITELY think we should outlaw the medical profession, because there are a lot of dangerous chemicals and drugs used, not to mention such weapons as scalpels. How can I know a doctor will use it right? How do I know some guy can't steal from a hospital?

Any canned goods need to be banned, because have you ever hurt yourself on those sharp edges? I worry about you, Stephen. I worry a lot. I don't take banning things lightly, I just want to make sure you are protected from harm. I don't know if you're a smart person or not, but I know I'm pretty damn smart, and I need to protect those people who might not be as smart as I from hurting themselves or others. The safest way to keep people from getting hurt is to outlaw things that have the potential to hurt.

For example, I fully support the extermination of all bees, because some people are allergic and could die from a bee sting. I want to also make sure that we ban the farming of peanuts for the same reason. You have to protect people, Stephen. I am so glad we can agree that banning anything that could potentially cause harm is the right thing to do.

Sex should be outlawed, because of the risk for HIV or AIDS. Yes, you can say monogamy, but that's still pretty risky. Blood transfusions are out for the same reason. There are real dangers in medicine, and we need to make sure that such dangers are banned. This is to help people that you and I know might not be as smart as we are, Stephen, but you know this already, because you're smart like I am.

If we, as an enlightened society (except for the dumb people out there that need people like you and I, Stephen, to help them out), can just ban anything that can cause harm to someone, one day, we can prevent any harm from coming to anyone.

Posted by TG, New Mexico on January 16, 2013:

Having read over Obama's (really Biden's) ideas to "curb gun violence," I have decidedly mixed feelings on the whole matter. First, the prospect that current gun laws will be enforced is a good one, as is the crackdown on those who lie on background checks. However, the "assault weapons ban" Obama trumpets as being so effective at stopping murders is a waste of time. Remember that 13% of murders are committed with knives, while 3% are done with rifles of any type.

The media has coined the magical term "assault weapon" to describe semi-auto rifles it sees as scary-looking or otherwise threatening. Why "magical," you ask? because ANYTHING is an assault weapon. Anything used in an assault is an assault weapon. After AR-15s, it'll be those nasty handguns, because the majority of firearm murders are with handguns, then bolt-action rifles, because, after all, it LOOKS like a sniper rifle. Just listening to idiots like Piers Morgan spew their drivel about how "assault weapons" are inherently evil is enough to make me lose neurons.

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on January 16, 2013:

Gregory, you are a fool. Here you go and make things hard. All you need to do is pass a law that outlaws death, injury and/or hurt feelings. With that done, you don't need to do anything about guns or any of the things you mentioned. I mean really, let's not get crazy and do things piecemeal.

Posted by TG, New Mexico on January 18, 2013:

Jeffrey- Why not just simplify things and ban life altogether? If you need to ban death, it's because people are alive in the first place. Also, even if you couldn't kill people, you could still harm them. You don't need a "hurt-feelings" law when no one is around to have their feelings hurt. And think of the environmental benefits! No people means no evil, malicious, CO2 death-gas spewing factories and refineries making oil for those wasteful,idiotic cars! Put simply, no people=no problem.

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on January 18, 2013:

TG, I guess you are right. And that makes military weapons the SOLUTION and not the problem.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on January 18, 2013:

Apparently I'm obtuse. I'm just not understanding the problem with military weapons. I mean, the flintlock, single shot, muzzle loading muskets were military weapons. Yet NOW they're okay. It's just the current military weapons that are wrong. So if we wait a few years, and military weapons advance, will the CURRENT ones then be okay? Is it just a matter of waiting a little while longer?

By the way, for all those who fear the AR-15, let me give a little history. The civilian AR-15 was never a military weapon. It was designed strictly as a civilian weapon by a company called Armalite (hence, the "AR" designation, not "Assault Rifle"). It was noticed by the government which contracted with Colt Industries to re-tool it, improve it, and make it fit for military use. After much failure, re-design, and frustration, it finally became the M-16 used in the military today.

Folks, the civilian AR-15 is NOT derived from the military M-16, but quite the opposite. The military M-16 was derived from the civilian AR-15. The AR-7 is a .22LR version of the AR-15, and nobody is calling it an "assault rifle."

Posted by Phil, Gilford NH on January 19, 2013:

Mike, I have to make a correction to that: The AR7 has absolutely nothing in common with the AR15 except for being a small-caliber semi-automatic rifle designed by Eugene Stoner. The AR5 from which the AR7 was developed actually has slightly more in common with the AR15, being chambered for a centerfire cartridge (.22 Hornet) rather than rimfire. The AR7 shares not a single design feature with the AR15 beyond those necessitated by both being rifles.

The AR5 was developed as an aircrew survival rifle for the United States Air Force; it and the AR7 are very light, recoil-operated semi-automatic rifles which can be assembled and disassembled in moments without tools and, when disassembled, stow inside their own hollow plastic stocks along with a small supply of ammunition. So stowed, the rifle is waterproof and floats.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on January 20, 2013:

Phil, you are quite correct. The point I was trying to make is that those who would ban "assault rifles" refer to the AR designation as Assault Rifle, yet they do not apply the same logic to the AR-7. The fact that the .22LR AR-7 IS a survival rifle, and suited for military use in that capacity, would make it yet another "military weapon" that does not belong in the hands of civilians. Still, nobody is calling for a ban on the AR-7. There is nothing about the AR-15 that demands a ban other than it LOOKS like an M-16.

For those unfamiliar with the AR-7, I noticed that it was used in an early James Bond movie, "From Russia With Love," in which Bond was able to shoot down a helicopter with it. Not at all possible of course with a .22, but that's the movies.

Posted by Phil, Gilford NH on January 20, 2013:

One way and another, Hollywood has done us a lot of no favors at all. They have conditioned much of the public to believe nineteen impossible things about firearms before breakfast, not to mention a whole pack of made-up pseudoscientific crap passed off as science. (I'm thinking of the "CSI Effect" here.)

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Yep. And every actor I see holding a gun pointing straight up with their finger on the trigger? I want to punch them in the mouth. Don't worry: the bullet won't go anywhere near me. -rc

Posted by Gregory, Chicago on January 21, 2013:

I just want to say that I come out in firm favour of gun control. Both definitions of gun control.

Definition 1: Put rounds on target.

Definition 2: Everything else.

I'm sorry, but things have just gone too far, and these guns are just allowed to roam free in the streets with no rhyme or reason whatsoever, and are allowed to do what they please, and I say, enough is enough and it's time for a change. We, as a society can no longer afford to let these guns do as they please. We need to look these guns in the eye and tell them who's boss. We need to teach these guns how to be civilised and productive members of society. We need to show these guns we mean business and that their behaviour will not be tolerated anymore. We've had too many years of guns just running loose in the streets and we need to put a stop to this before things get too far out of control. Someone needs to tell these guns that if they don't behave themselves, then we will start making them behave themselves.

Posted by TG, New Mexico on January 21, 2013:

Gregory-- you are a bloody genius, you know that? You really had me going there for a second. Well done, good sir. Seriously, there are far too many people who think that it is the gun that is the problem.

Also, as Phil said, the media makes guns out to be these amazingly accurate auto-aiming precision instruments. While many guns are very accurate, it is the USER who controls them. Having some experience shooting 10-meter air rifle, I can attest to the fact that, even though the rifle can literally drive tacks, the user may not be able to.

The myths of "warning shots" and "nonlethal shots" are more movie-induced falsehoods. In a combat situation, one aims at the center-of-mass of their target and shoots to kill. Aiming and shooting under circumstances is hard enough. Aiming and shooting in a finals match or a life-or-death struggle is much more challenging.

Posted by Richard, UK on January 22, 2013:

I agree with Gregory in every respect. Of course, I am assuming that when he uses the word "guns" he uses it in the sense that gamekeepers use it in the UK -- those who shoot. In a rough shoot for 20 guns that means 20 people with guns.

So yes, control all those people with guns by getting rid of the lethal weapons they so casually carry and use.

I trust that you find this posting mildly amusing, Randy; I realise that, as it is supporting the anti-gun view, you will not allow it to appear -- as you have so frequently disallowed my other posting that express a view that opposes your own pro-gun stance.

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See, that is the perfect example of why so many of your posts don't get approved. What I said to you a couple of days ago, when I rejected your post then, was "I have addressed this, but you refuse to acknowledge what I've said about it (and other things). When you continue to press arguments without acknowledging the reply, I will continue to delete them without posting." If you're incapable of understanding and addressing truly simple points, then yeah: I'll continue to delete your redundancies. -rc

Posted by Phil, Gilford NH on January 22, 2013:

As a matter of fact, a lot of times, if you fire a warning shot or try to shoot to disarm or disable, many prosecutors will argue that if you had time to do that, you weren't really in so much danger that you had to shoot. Plus, the disabling/disarming shot is not easy even when you're calm, cool, and shooting at a stationary paper target, much less when you're shooting at a moving assailant while pumped up on adrenaline and possibly in poor lighting conditions compared to the range.

So, yeah. If [deity forbid] you find yourself in a situation where you have to shoot, you shoot for center of mass and you keep shooting until your assailant goes down or flees. This cannot be emphasized enough. If the situation has deteriorated to the point that you have to use deadly force, use deadly force. Don't try to dance around with half measures out of some sense of misplaced social responsibility to your attacker. You didn't force the situation; your assailant did. The only thing you do by going easy on your attacker is increase the risk to yourself and to any family members or other intended victims in whose protection you are acting.

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You clearly have some training. I'll say the same thing in a different way, because anti-gun folks usually get this completely wrong: in a self-defense situation the point is not "shoot to kill" but rather shoot to stop the threat. This is why some get confused: they think you "have to" try something less deadly first, like a shoulder shot ("it's just a flesh wound") or shoot them in the leg "so they can't run." Nope: those are stupid Hollywood concepts; you want them to run! If you're justified in using deadly force, then use deadly force. But the point isn't "this intruder must die." It's "I was forced into stopping this intruder and his deadly intentions, and deadly force was justified to do so." -rc

Posted by Gregory, Chicago on January 22, 2013:

RC (& Phil): When I was in the Corps training, we were told, "shoot to stop".

Just an anecdote related to your comment on Phil's post.

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Yes, even in combat (war), the point isn't "shoot to kill": it takes a lot more enemy resources to rescue a wounded soldier than to remove a dead one. -rc

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on January 22, 2013:

I have one problem with shooting for the center of mass. I have always been taught two to the body and one to the head. The two to the body will stop or slow someone with body armor. The one to the head drops them.

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I was taught two to the body and, if that doesn't stop them, then one to the head (with not much of a pause between). -rc

Posted by Stephen, Idstein Germany on February 6, 2013:

Gregory, Chicago: You are not only long winded but funny as well.

Your pseudo rant is pretty funny. If you actually thought about anything I said, you would understand that the video games and television/movies reflect the acceptance of a deteriorating moral attitude and not an all out ban of anything.

I grew up with Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour and never thought about beating someone on the head with a hammer.

That was deemed too violent at some point in time.

Society on a whole has deteriorated. Look at the statistics. While Randy mentioned that violence preceded video games, the number of incidents have increased with the fact that society as a whole accepts violent behavior and this is reflected in video games et al.

My last post was related to the fact that an anti-gun supporting person created a game that allows you to shoot the head of the NRA. Very nice message that you convey here.

So take your cans and anything else you want to ban, probably books too, oh wait: you can't read very well.

---

I agree with part of what you say: "...violence preceded video games, the number of incidents have increased with the fact that" ...the population is now over 300 million, and there are more and more media outlets vying for attention by publicizing horror. -rc

Posted by Gregory, Chicago on February 7, 2013:

Oh, I don't buy into the whole "deterioration of society" line. That's such a bogus line used by people who either don't want to understand, are behind the times, or both.

Yes, we have Twitter and blogs and Facebook and even TV, all vying for the attention of as many people as possible, so no, there isn't "social hour" anymore where we all gather in the town square, exchanging handshakes and curtsies.

If the increase in technology is considered to be a "deterioration of society", then I guess your preferred society includes lighting candles and writing on parchment with a quill.

With regard to violent video games, entertainment reflects society. If it were true that television and video games caused a certain type of behaviour, 1) that's one helluva mind control, and 2) with games selling millions of copies, we'd find a drastically reduced population, as you and I and everyone posting would already be dead, since there's a good chance (via the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon theory) that everyone knows someone who has played a video game.

Posted by Phil - Quakertown, PA on February 10, 2013:

Gregory- The increased cocooning of Americans, where they are the only real person in their virtual world, is very likely a factor in sociopathic behavior. The loonies who obtain guns and prowl through a school or mall and view all other people as merely targets to be scored upon, are exhibiting the same sort of behavior that violent 1st-person shooter games reward. Those other bipeds aren't really "people", you just shoot them for points.

You don't have to be a technophobic Luddite to see that 1st person shooter games have some relationship to this phenomenon of disturbed persons going for high scores in blood. Even if the causality is just "sick people are drawn to these", then at the least parents and friends should do something if the troubled loners spends all of his time alone with his virtual carnage. It's at least a red flag for psychosis.

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on February 10, 2013:

Unfortunately Gregory, I think you are wrong. It is not the increase of technology that is to blame any more than it is the gun to blame. But there is a huge effort on the part of progressives to make two classes of ruler and peon in this country. Work, sacrifice, loyalty, honor are all laughed at by the elite. A simple example is that Boys Town here in Omaha used to have a huge farm with cattle, sheep, pigs, and chickens as well as kitchen crops. It was part of an idea of getting kids outside doing productive work and giving them pride in accomplishment. The farm is now just corn and is run by tenant farmers as a funding source. Why? Because the organization was hit by child labor laws. You can't make kids work for you. Even if it is good for them and part of therapy. Heck they even want to eliminate children from working on their parents' farms.

Read Tolkein and then watch the movie. Most glaring. In the book Faramir did not take the ring because he held a casual statement to be an oath that could not be broken for any reason. In the movie, he took Frodo back to town and only let him go for fear. Not the same. One is honor, the other is cowardice.

Part of the problem is some uses of technology. I have over 500 facebook friends but none I trust. I watch people out with family and friends and all of them are texting. Alone together indeed. But this is good for the elites. If I have friends and people I trust and love, I don't have to reach out for the government to tell me what to do and how to live. Now, they are proposing a "healthy house". "Today's announcement will help the federal government unify action to controlling and preventing major housing-related exposures and hazards."

Posted by Mike from Dallas on February 10, 2013:

I have to agree with Gregory of Chicago; in fact, I had the same visceral reaction to the "deterioration of society" comment that's been prevalent before in other areas of the blog. I've been blessed to be part of a long-lived family, and have had a close relationship with great-grandparents who were born in 1888. I heard the same statements out of them, out of my grandparents, my own parents, and now as a grandparent myself, I'm hearing it out of my children's generation. As the Rolling Stones sang in 1966, "Things are different today, you hear every mother say...."

Contrary to the movies and TV, the bucolic days of yesteryear never existed. It was not an idyllic life of simple living. We still had large cities with a much more inherently violent attitude back then. We had serial killers back then, such as the Boston Strangler, and mass shooters such as the Dallas sniper in 1962. And let us remember opening fire with troops on our own children at Kent State University in 1970. The only thing that has changed since then is that we have more instant and widespread coverage in the news today, with associated hand-wringing ad nauseam.

True, violent crime did increase throughout the 1970's due to a more permissive, excuse-laden society, but that trend has also changed in the opposite direction in the 1990's. To blame violence today on Hollywood and video games reminds me of the Congressional hearings on comic books contributing to the deterioration of our children in the 1950's. Hollywood does not force us to spend our money at the movies. Hollywood responds to the market demand for such movies. While violence in video games may (or may not) be reprehensible, it's a reflection of attitude rather than the cause of it. The only difference today is the lack of censorship that disallowed such publication 50 years ago. When kids of my generation played, it was Cops & Robbers, Cowboys & Indians, Americans and Germans (or Japs), with all the vitriolic hatred for the "bad guys" that was present in mainstream society back then. And some of us kids CHOSE to be the "bad guys."

Over my lifetime, I can find much about today's society upon which to complain but, overall, social attitudes are vastly improved over what I experienced 50 years ago.

Posted by Phil, Gilford NH on February 11, 2013:

Phil in Quakertown: Actually, studies do not support this assertion. There is a recent study by Prof. Bushman at Ohio State University which Prof. Bushman claims proves that violent video games increase violence in their players, but when you study his methodology it's immediately obvious that what he has actually demonstrated is that twitch-reflex games improve twitch reflexes, something that we already knew and should be immediately obvious even without a study. If you practice ANYTHING, you become better at it. Bushman's is an extremely poorly constructed study and his conclusions from it are invalid.

(Like many such studies, Bushman's also fails to draw a distinction between "aggressive" and "competitive" behavior. But then, many of these studies are designed by people to whom competitiveness is equivalent to aggression. Personally speaking, my daughters are frequently hyper-competitive, and trust me, I know the difference.)

Do you, by chance, happen to know what Adam Lanza's favorite video game was?

Go ahead, take a guess.

...Give up?

Dance Dance Revolution.

Oh yeah. I can totally see how that game would warp someone's mind into violent paranoia... NOT!

The gaming site Kotaku recently posted an article summarizing 25 different studies on video games, TV, and "aggressive behavior" between 1984 and 2012. The results are all over the map, with no clear verdict. Some studies found a correlation. Some found no correlation. Some found a NEGATIVE correlation (subjects playing "violent" games displayed less "aggressive" behavior the longer they played).

Perhaps the most honest of the entire batch was the 2010 study that concluded that "the methods of study were inherently flawed, and that other studies featured misleading conclusions and implications." [Emphasis mine.]

Posted by Phil - Quakertown, PA on February 11, 2013:

To "Phil, in Gilford", I would first point out that the absence of proof of causation is not proof of no correlation. For example, people who carry guns are more likely to be attacked, not because guns cause attacks, but because people who live in crime-riddled areas tend to want to carry guns to protect themselves.

Second, if we can't use common sense to find a link between troubled loners spending 10 hours per day pretending to kill people, and those troubled loners going out to kill people...then what's the foundation of the gun control movement? Certainly not any peer-reviewed studies showing that banning some guns causes an otherwise unexplained drop in crime. Because there are no such studies, just gut feelings, such as "those Japanese have no guns and little crime, therefore there must be a causal relationship, and if we banned guns, then we too would have low Japanese crime rates, high Japanese suicide rates, and our kids would do better in math."

Posted by Bob in New Jersey on February 11, 2013:

Regarding the "deterioration of society" that has been mentioned, I have a different thought. Society is changing. We have added near instant communications that allow us to stay current on crime on the other side of the nation or world. We hear in NJ about the cop "killer" in California a few seconds after the locals do. That instant propagation of news gives us a different perception of society than was possible 30 or 40 years ago. I believe that the main difference is that we perceive our society differently because of the improved communication.

Regarding the levels of violence, yes we go through cyclic increases and decreases. However, our society is not uniform. Gang violence spills over as weapons change from knives and chains of the rumble of 75 years ago to the guns today. The real issue is do we disarm our law abiding citizens and leave them defenseless for long enough to get the guns out of the hands of the gang members? Adding to the question is how easy it is to smuggle guns in from other nations and even make them from scratch. If you take the gang violence out of the stats I believe that we have become more peaceful over the years. The issue as I see it is that we need to deal with the gang situation in some way. We can either take the money out of the equation by legalizing what the gangs depend on for income, or we can aggressively remove the gangs from our society. As the second basically means declaring war in many of our inner cities ( some would argue that we already have ), I propose that we take the money out of the drug trade that fuels the violence. That's one thing that many European nations have done.

Posted by Stephen, Idstein Germany on February 13, 2013:

Mike from Dallas: My video game/movie argument is not a blame on these but they do not help. It is the fact that they desensitize people. The first time I hunted, I was a little shocked at the cleaning the animal that I just shot. It took a while to get used to it, now I have no problem taking care of my "food". The same thing applies to violent behavior concerning our fellow humans. Seeing enough in video games or movies lowers the threshold in some, this may cause some people to think that it is socially acceptable behavior.

As you posted, yes life and society changes. Things that used to be a social "sin" are acceptable. The 50's, 60's and 70's were a big change of social behavior. Rock n Roll, sex before marriage and drugs were some really big changes that were made acceptable by social changes, these of course were condemned by the previous generation. There will always be the argument that things were better when I was a child.

I also accept that fact that you were raised by your parents to differentiate between good and bad. Your children can play a violent video game and still know right from wrong. What about the playstation parents? They don't raise their children as you and I were raised, but leave them to learn from TV and video games. (I am not even going to touch on the fact that several sports role models today are not the Lone Ranger of yesteryear).

Phil in Gilford: I like the fact that you make a differentiation between being "aggressive" and being "competitive".

Fighting on a verbal level is the same as a fist fight, it's just that the weapons are different. The loser must concede either on an intellectual or verbal level. Sometimes however, those that lose the intellectual battle revert to a physical level which is not an acceptable approach in modern society. Using that example, a fair competition is a competion that follows certain rules or social standards. Aggressive behavior as you mention it, I am assuming, means violent behavior in a non-acceptable way. For example, the losing team (individual) sees no other way to win other than to break the rules. This could be considered aggressive (violent) behavior.

Bob in New Jersey: "I propose that we take the money out of the drug trade that fuels the violence. That's one thing that many European nations have done."

Living in Germany, I would love to know where in Europe this is. The Netherlands have legalized somethings, in Switzerland you are allowed to have a very small amount in some cases. Drugs are very illegal in Germany, to the point where if you test positive after a visit to the Netherlands you are in legal trouble.

Randy: In response to "I agree with part of what you say: '...violence preceded video games, the number of incidents have increased with the fact that' ...the population is now over 300 million, and there are more and more media outlets vying for attention by publicizing horror. -rc"

Yeah... include the media in the evil category... it's hard to find unbiased sources that actually report reality and not pick cherries for a good quota.

---

It seems to me you countered your own "densensitation" argument: despite your own exposure to video games and movies, you found yourself "shocked" when faced with cleaning an animal you shot hunting. Fiction pales in comparison to reality. But even without such media, the violent desensitize themselves: it's common, for instance, to hear about serial killers and other violent murderers to have abused animals as children, and slowly ramp up their aggression and sadism. -rc

Posted by TG, New Mexico on February 14, 2013:

Mike- While you're right that there was never an ideal society in America or anywhere else, the "deterioration of society" argument does, at least in my humble opinion, have some merit. I'm not talking about video games, movies, or the Internet, all of which are overwhelmingly beneficial to society. I speak instead of what seems like a relatively new trend in our culture: sensationalist paranoia. Paranoia about the next mass murder, the next terrorist attack, the next superstorm, and the next child abduction, all happening right on the doorstep of Mr. and Mrs. Citizen, Anytown, USA. Relatively instantaneous communication has been around for a long time. A ratings-chasing, factually challenged media has not. Society has degraded, but only because the mass media has gone from being a largely unbiased, truly journalistic entity to being a huge "true crime" show, pandering only to the fears of its audience. Sure, your chances of being murdered by an AR-15-wielding maniac are exponentially smaller than your chances of being run over as you cross a street, but in today's society, it sure doesn't feel that way. The media has gone from being the voice of reason in the world to being the little voice that whispers "you could be next" in the ear of the people.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on February 15, 2013:

It's true that there is no shortage of sensationalism to exacerbate problems. And it's also true that society is all too eager to believe it. But it's nothing new.

"You provide the pictures; I'll provide the war." ~ purportedly said by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst in 1898 prior to the Spanish American War. However, contrary to conventional wisdom, even he was not the "father of yellow journalism" which existed years before. Example: Joseph Pulitzer and his New York World in 1883 in which sensational crime stories dominated the pages.

And the story of Chicken Little, in all its adaptions, can be traced back before Buddha 25 centuries ago, demonstrating the human condition to readily believe the worst.

And this is WHY, for all the tragedy, for all the numbers trotted out to "prove" the worst about American society, I don't fall for it. The only way to PREVENT such tragedy is to so severely limit all of us, in all our daily activities, that even a dictatorial rule would be benign by comparison. The price we pay may be high, but the rewards we enjoy far surpass the risks. I'd rather risk death of myself and my family than live in a societal prison.

Posted by Gregory, Chicago on February 18, 2013:

I still maintain I don't see the relationship between any sort of violent entertainment and real-life violence, for the reasons I have stated before.

I am a U.S. Marine, I work in pro wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts. All pretty violent folk, more or less. I also happen to be a big fan of weapons. Yet, I haven't yet considered going and playing "shoot 'em up" in a public setting.

I do agree with a few things, such as what Jeffrey in Omaha mentions about families sitting together with their electronic toys out. I don't think I would be doing that (and not just because my parents aren't the most technically inclined people on the planet), but I would most certainly think that if your family is THAT technically inclined, then if you're all together, why the need for toys? What, you're gonna text Mom when she's literally two feet in front of you?

I see what you say about 500 Facebook "friends", but keep in mind it is social NETWORKING, so if you're not "networking", then there's not much point in it. Keep up with friends and family? There is this great thing called telephones. With the packages offered by the competing cellular companies, it's difficult to conceive not being able to keep in touch with Great-Aunt Petunia in Zimbabwe. Letters and email, too.

Also, I mentioned elsewhere that I still feel that people who want attention are drawn to people like the Columbine killers, or the Virginia Tech killer, because they see that all you need to do is shoot a lot of people and BAM instant publicity. If you're alone and starved for attention, you're not going to think twice of killing yourself, and this way, people write about you forever more. You get Wikipedia entries, you get news articles, you're FAMOUS! You achieve in death what you could not in life. I don't think people that love to go and examine every little thing under a microscope think that what they do might ENCOURAGE people who might not ordinarily think about violence, but have the capacity for such.

I also agree with Mike from Dallas and TG from New Mexico. What they state has a relation to my previous paragraph. The media, however, is not (really) to blame. Like television, movies, video games and Vince McMahon, they only give the audience what they want. The original UFC was WAY more violent than the current product, and is actually tamer than boxing, in its current form. The media, also, is forced to do what they do, as they (for good or bad) now live and die by "ratings", instead of how good the quality of their news is.

There was a WWE DVD put out a few years back where one of the wrestlers spoke of how he never heard the word "ratings" being used until WWE was faced with competition on cable television. The same can be said for any other television show or film. It can be a great show, but if an audience isn't there, than neither is the show? (and how many critically acclaimed shows are low rated?). The last starring vehicle with Heather Graham was publicised all over the place, and was yanked after one episode. It didn't even get a chance to TRY to find an audience, leaving the network looking pretty foolish, hyping a show that doesn't air anymore.

Phil in Gilford, I also agree about the difference between COMPETITIVENESS and AGGRESSIVENESS. Ultimate Fighting Championship Hall of Fame member Ken Shamrock had a commentator compliment him after one of his earliest fights on his ability to "turn it on and off" when he is in the Octagon. ALL pro athletes are competitive. Competitiveness can be aggressiveness, especially during competition, but you certainly don't see pro athletes (excluding ones with brain damage such as Chris Benoit and Jovan Belcher) going and playing shoot 'em up in schools. In nightclubs, maybe, but there's a difference between carrying a weapon for protection and being a big enough doorknob to shoot yourself or someone else, and deliberately trying to kill as many people as you can.

I maintain that every generation believes that society has "deteriorated" from previous generations, but it is not deterioration, but advancement. Some advancement, such as instant access to news and ratings driving the news, as opposed to news driving the news might not be as good as other advancements, but I would definitely hesitate to say we've "deteriorated".

If you want true deterioration, we can go off-topic and talk about how our elected officials are determined to turn our country into a nanny state, telling us everything we can and cannot do. If you're a fat sloth who plays video games all day, while I choose to go run, that's YOUR problem, not mine. I don't care if you want to be a sloth, any more than you care if I run, but I sure don't need a "public servant" making it a law. There's something to be said about how "service to the public" is such a high calling...and pays so well, too...you want deterioration of society? It's when a "servant of the public" decides his higher calling to public service is because of the GREAT payday he gets. Six-plus figures to be a "servant of the public". That's deterioration of society, when the public servants are no longer drawn to serve the public good FOR the public good, but are drawn to it because, hey, it's great cash. Video games, Facebook, and cell phones? Not so much.

I don't see a link to violence in video games, TV, movies or competitiveness, but I DO see the link in rap. Yet, no one has created studies to say, "Gee, this guy goes out and makes platinum records talking about how sexy and glamourous it is to be a gangsta and a thug, and then -- WHOA!, shocker -- he gets gunned down, and the little kids that wanna be gang-bangers (because it's the coolest job in the world to be gangsta and have that street cred of being a professional thug), start carrying guns and joining gangs, just like their role models.

Quite frankly, I'd be WAY more concerned about that than any video game or movie or television show, or even the news.

Posted by Robert in Missouri on February 22, 2013:

Gregory in Chicago: You make some very good points in your post, especially in your next to last paragraph. I never understood why rap is popular, but I do know that little kids like to imitate their elders. For what it's worth, I've watched "Scared Straight" as well as the series "Beyond Scared Straight" and I wonder why some people see the allure of a life of crime where there is a good chance that you are more likely to be killed or locked up and have three hot meals and a cot and possibly face death in prison.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on February 24, 2013:

According to the NHTSA, there were 43,443 alcohol-related TRAFFIC fatalities in 2005 alone. The CDC reports that there are over 100,000 alcohol-related deaths annually from all causes. Yet very few (yes, some) are clamoring for outlawing all alcohol. Still, we can look at statistics in countries where alcohol IS banned, and see that they enjoy an extremely low per capita death rate from alcohol. Still, nobody in the US suggests that we should even partially ban CERTAIN alcohol, such as the "hard liquor" or just the most commonly used beer. Nobody suggests submitting everyone who buys a beer to an extensive background check to ensure they've never been involved in a DUI, or a Disorderly Conduct, Public Intoxication, or Domestic Violence in which alcohol may have been a factor. No background checks to make sure a buyer has been treated for alcohol abuse.

According to the CDC, smoking is the leading preventable cause of ALL deaths in the US, year after year. Tobacco is responsible (according to the CDC) for 443,000 deaths each year. Yet, while restricting WHERE tobacco may be used, there is still no movement to ban it outright, nor to submit users to an [exhaustive] background check for each and every purchase.

Compare, then, that firearms deaths take 32,000 lives each year, from ALL causes. 53%, or 17,000, of those deaths are by suicide. During the ten year span of the Clinton gun ban, the suicide rate did NOT decrease. They merely found another method. Firearms, then, are simply a matter of convenience, but lack of them is no deterrent. The remaining 15,000 consists of 6,000 "justifiable" deaths, mostly police usage as well as personal defense. That leaves 9,000 a year that are unjustifiable. Compare 9,000 deaths per year against 100,000 deaths each year from alcohol, or 443,000 deaths each year from tobacco.

Guns are not the boogeyman here, but the fear of guns. As Charles Bronson said in one of those Death Wish movies, "Guns don't scare me. Guns can be very useful. It's idiots with guns that scare me." And there is no method on earth to weed out the idiots in advance.

Posted by Gregory, Chicago on February 24, 2013:

Interestingly enough, Mike, the government keeps wanting to pass legislation to increase the amount of tax collected on alcohol and tobacco, in the hopes that they can somehow get out of the mud puddle of debt they create for themselves, but at the same time, insist they want to curb alcohol and tobacco use, creating an interesting conundrum.

Posted by Richard, England on February 24, 2013:

My God - what rubbish you pro-gun people write to try to defend the indefensible!

Quote "...Still, we can look at statistics in countries where alcohol IS banned, and see that they enjoy an extremely low per capita death rate from alcohol...."

Yes. And take a look at the countries where firearms are banned and you'll see that deaths by firearms are extremely low. But there is little point in quoting the figures yet aagin as you will simply come up with some spurious and/or unrelated statistics about other types of crime entirely.

Guns are designed to kill people and they do it very well. No guns -- no deaths by firearms.

It's a shame, Randy, that you won't publish this posting -- as you have failed to publish so many of my other comments -- but I realise that you are somewhat to the right of Hitler insofar as guns are concerned. It is rather a shame that you, who claim to represent such high journalistic standards, should allow yourself to be so biased.

It is rare that I get so agitated over blogs -- but the out and out rubbish that has appeared in the past few weeks has broken through my usual restaint.

---

The bias is yours, ye who chooses to invoke Godwin's Law. I can see the issue clearly, but you refuse to. For instance, I've already responded to the tripe that there is no other purpose for guns than "to kill people" (right on this page), yet you refuse to acknowledge that I've said a thing in response, let alone attempt to reply to it. It's when you repeat the same things over and over without responding to the points made that I delete your comments without posting them. And I will continue to do so for anyone who refuses to discuss, and only wishes to lecture -- especially when the lectures toss fact aside in favor of shrill emotion. -rc

Posted by Gregory, Chicago on February 24, 2013:

Richard: In order to ban firearms, first off (in the US), we'd have to get past that pesky Constitution thing.

Second, your own comment states, "And take a look at the countries where firearms are banned and you'll see that deaths by firearms are extremely low." before contradicting yourself, stating, "No guns -- no deaths by firearms."

So which is it, Richard? Low or none? Can't have it both ways if you want to make a point.

Posted by Neil C., Hawthorne, Ca on February 24, 2013:

Richard: While there are many types of people in the world, two of them are those who believe what they want to believe in spite of the facts which prove they are wrong and those who only believe what the facts prove is true, and YOU are part of the First group.

So now, here are some facts for you:

1. In the USA, the cities and states with the most stringent gun laws not only have the most gun crime, they have MORE Crime of ALL types!

2. In the USA, the cities and states with the least stringent gun laws not only have less gun crime, they have LESS Crime of ALL types!

3. There are many countries which ban all guns, and yet in all but one of them, which has the same rate of murders as the USA, the rest of them all have higher murder rates than the USA does! And in more than a few of the countries which ban all guns, the rates of murder is MANY times higher than the murder rates in the USA!

So Richard, not only do all these facts prove gun control does not reduce reduce murder rates, they prove gun control INCREASES crime!

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on February 24, 2013:

Greg says: "The media, however, is not (really) to blame. Like television, movies, video games and Vince McMahon, they only give the audience what they want."

I must call BS here. The Movieguide report says G-rated movies made more money than movies with other ratings, especially when compared to R-rated movies. For example, among the Top 250 movies at the box office in 2008, G-rated movies averaged $64.1 million in North America, but R-rated movies averaged only $14.6 million. Movies that matched Movieguide's highest, most family-friendly standards, including the traditional understanding of Christian theology and ethics, averaged $61.9 million at the domestic box office compared to only $17 million for those movies that were labeled "abhorrent."

But what does Hollywood do? What do they reward with Oscars? Where do they spend their money? In 2012 according to Box Office Mojo, R and NC-15 movies made up 29% of the movies and grosses 27% of the box office. G & PG made 6.7% of all movies and grossed 21% of box office.

The same with all of the elites. America in poll after poll tends to be center right, but the news media, the schools, the judges, the entertainers, and Hollywood in poll after poll tend to be extreme left including a large portion of stated proud communists. If that sticks in anyone's craw, I will happily link you to such public statements.

In my opinion, one of the worst drivers of people to violence is the thug rap culture. In that culture, anyone who "disses" you must be taken down hard. And they are not shy that it should be murder in the streets. And this we glorify. See the latest Las Vegas shooting.

---

You need to be more careful with your copying. It wasn't "R and NC-15" movies that had an almost equal number vs percentage of the market, it was R and PG-13 movies; there is no "NC-15" rating (it's NC-17). It weakens your point to make such obvious errors. Also, I have never heard a successful modern Hollywood filmmaker state he's a Communist, proudly or otherwise, so yes: please do provide links to a few examples. -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on February 24, 2013:

Richard said, "...but I realise that you are somewhat to the right of Hitler insofar as guns are concerned."

Since I wasn't there, I can't say for certain, but I've heard that Hitler actually ordered total confiscation of privately owned firearms. So, wouldn't that put Randy to the LEFT of Hitler regarding guns? You know... more "American?"

By the way, I wonder if Richard looked up Godwin's Law. I did.

---

Well hell, I linked to it! If he can't manage to click that, then Richard truly is lost. And your retort to his silly charge is indeed thought-provoking. -rc

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on February 24, 2013:

You mistake me. I did mistype nc-17 as nc-15 sorry. I said: "America in poll after poll tends to be center right, but the news media, the schools, the judges, the entertainers, and Hollywood in poll after poll tend to be extreme left including a large portion of stated proud communists.' Not specifically hollywood. All elites. Most of the open communists are in places where they cannot be fired such as tenured professors. In hollywood and most media they are less bold. Regardless, my point was that the elites do not represent the average American or provide what they want.

I did not really want to make this an anti-communist rant. Please ignore the rest of this unless you care. However, Lawrence O'Donnell is socialist. Roseanne Barr. Harry Belafonte "No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush says, we're here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people ... support your revolution," Belafonte told Chavez during the broadcast.

The very left wing Fair has an Advisory Board that includes actors Edward Asner, John Cusack, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon; journalists Ben Bagdikian, Barbara Ehrenreich, Susan Faludi, Katha Pollitt [of The Nation], and Studs Terkel; musician Jackson Browne [a supporter of the Sandinista dictatorship]; and feminists Eleanor Smeal and Gloria Steinem. Asner, Ehrenreich and Steinem are members of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which describes itself as "the principal U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International."

Finding communists in academia is easy and the Socialist Party of America has identified 70 members of theirs in congress.

---

Socialists and Communists are two different things. Indeed you did say "...but the news media, the schools, the judges, the entertainers, and Hollywood in poll after poll tend to be extreme left including a large portion of stated proud communists." after speaking specifically about "Hollywood" people who make movies. I still don't see any "proud communist" modern filmmakers. -rc

Posted by Gregory, Chicago on February 24, 2013:

Jeffrey: You showed some statistics that demonstrate that G rated films outdraw films with an R rating.

You successfully managed to show that films that typically attract families can outdraw at the box office films that are typically watched alone. Congratulations.

You also point out that R rated movies are more prevalent in the marketplace.

Are you attempting to make my argument for me? Seriously. If there was no demand for R rated films, then why would they account for so much of the films shown?

Is it nice to win awards and be recognised in Hollywood? Sure. However, you're talking about a voting process that is not transparent and subject to personal taste. Just like the reasons why certain musical acts haven't made it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

If I might be so bold, I would suggest that makers of R rated films (and especially NC-17, which aren't shown in theatres!) aren't looking to make a "Best Picture" winner, and know they aren't making a "Best Picture" winner, also.

So, YES, this is what the PUBLIC wants. If there was no demand, there wouldn't be films. Bottom line. Jeffrey, again, you make my argument for me.

---

If I understand his point correctly, he's saying that even though Americans want G/PG movies, evil Hollywood is churning out family-unfriendly PG-13 and R-rated fare instead. Why? Because they're communists/socialists with an agenda of ruining America. His "proof" is the box-office numbers, even though that's only a portion of the profits from films -- international release, DVDs, and cable/satellite sales often bring in much more. I remain unconvinced, and don't see what this really has to do with gun violence anyway. -rc

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on February 24, 2013:

I knew I made a mistake commenting on politics here. My point was NOT that commies and socialists are bad. I have no great hatred for them even though I am more libertarian than anything. I just think they are foolish.

My point, and my ONLY point is that people publish, write, make movies,teach classes, etc based on personal beliefs and biases JUST AS IT SHOULD BE! They OFTEN do not do it to satisfy the taste of the public. They satisfy their own tastes. They don't want to watch G and PG fare so they don't want to make it. In many cases they disrespect their customers.

I also know that box office is not all. However, these numbers hold in worldwide numbers and as far as I can determine, in DVD sales and rentals.

Posted by Gregory, Chicago on February 24, 2013:

Jeffrey: The ones that make films for their own amusement are what we call "home video" buffs. You film yourself with your college buddies, your child's first steps, etc.

NO ONE in Hollywood (despite what they may say to the contrary) is going to make a film for wide release, based only on what they want to see. You show me a film that is NOT targeted to the public, and I'll show you a film that does not make money.

Again, you make my argument for me. Studios churn out films that they believe the public wants. Certain segments of the public like G and PG fare. Others not so much. No major movie studio would back a film fiscally they believe the public isn't willing to watch. That's why you have what are called "Bankable" movie stars. The stars the studios believe will draw, as we call it in wrestling, "asses to seats". Do you seriously believe that a movie studio isn't looking at films without a plan to recoup the monies fronted? I call you mistaken, sir.

R and NC-17 films do NOT represent a "deterioration of society", and there is DEFINITELY no solid, irrefutable evidence linking them to crime, gun or otherwise. Again, you may believe that if you so wish, but I would call you mistaken, sir.

Posted by Richard, England on February 25, 2013:

Well, I'll go to the end of our road -- you have answered me! Now I will answer you and the others in a more factual and less emotive way (as I have done on several occasions and you have failed to publish my resonses or answer). I hope that you will continue to allow those who do not believe in the unrestricted possesion of firearms, to continue to have their views reported.

Your wrote, "...The bias is yours, ye who chooses to invoke Godwin's Law. I can see the issue clearly, but you refuse to. ..." My comment about your being to the right of Hitler was not supposed to be accurate (as I am sure you realised very well) -- it was supposed to provoke a response. It worked. And I see the issues very clearly -- I have taken the trouble to check the facts and figures and have actually posted many of them. You have chosen not to publish them.

You wrote: "...For instance, I've already responded to the tripe that there is no other purpose for guns than "to kill people" (right on this page), yet you refuse to acknowledge that I've said a thing in response, let alone attempt to reply to it..." You made some comment about the importance of guns in "the Wild West -- which still exists in the USA". I did reply and asked you just what are these dangers in the "Wild West". You didn't answer me. As is happens I have been to quite a few "Wild West" parts of both the USA and Canada. I am a well-travelled man. In the Canadian Rockies there are (and I have come face to face with a few) such unfriendly animals as bears, but I doubt very much whether an handgun would have done anything at all to defend me against a bear had it decided to attack. What else is there in the "Wild West"? I've met a large number of "Indians" in the Canadian reservations -- I helped one of them to plant his potatoes and never once did I feel the need to defend my scalp against his hunting knife.

You wrote, "...It's when you repeat the same things over and over without responding to the points made that I delete your comments without posting them." That is untrue. I have given just one example already. I had given up answering your points since you had stopped bothering to respond and had presumably simply deleted my post.

You also wrote, "...And I will continue to do so for anyone who refuses to discuss, and only wishes to lecture -- especially when the lectures toss fact aside in favor of shrill emotion...." I believe that I have given more facts and references than most who post here. You yourself have often made statements without quoting references and the most recent comments from Neil are another good example of facts that are quoted without reference. The guilt, if guilt there is, is on the part of the gun apologists who quote "facts" -- many of them simply repeating the same old tosh -- without their quoting any properly researched data sources.

Gregory wrote: "...Richard: In order to ban firearms, first off (in the US), we'd have to get past that pesky Constitution thing...." Indeed you would and you could -- just like you managed to get part that pesky Constitution thing when you revoked Prohibition. The Constitution of the USA does not oblige people to carry firearms; it allows them to be carried to protect the country.

Gregory wrote: "...So which is it, Richard? Low or none? Can't have it both ways if you want to make a point..." There is no contradiction in what I wrote. Countries that have banned firearms have very low rates of firearms crime and if there were no guns there would be no firearms crime. But the countries that have banned guns still have some firearms crime simply because a few criminals still possess guns -- even though they are banned.

Neil -- I won't quote everything you have written but I will say that I don't believe most of what you have written and especially not your statement, "...There are many countries which ban all guns, and yet in all but one of them, which has the same rate of murders as the USA, the rest of them all have higher murder rates than the USA does! And in more than a few of the countries which ban all guns, the rates of murder is MANY times higher than the murder rates in the USA!..." In my own country, the UK, where private firearm ownership is so strictly controlled as to effectively ban them to all but specially trained and authorised officials, the murder rate -- by all methods -- is far lower than that in the USA. There are plenty of references but the World Bank suggests that the per capita homicide rate in the USA is five time that of the UK. And the firearm-related homicide rate in the USA is far higher than that in any other developed country in the world (not the highest, admittedly -- but far higher than any country in Europe).

He also wrote, "...So Richard, not only do all these facts prove gun control does not reduce reduce murder rates, they prove gun control INCREASES crime!..." And I would agree. If they were facts -- but they are not facts. Show me some properly researched statistics -- not journalistic comments -- and I might agree with you.

Mike wrote, "...By the way, I wonder if Richard looked up Godwin's Law. I did...." Of course I did -- and I have already explained why I made that reference. I was supposed to provoke a response -- and it worked.

If there is to be a debate on gun control then all points of view should be aired - not just those of the pro-gun lobby. And I would comment -- yet again -- that I am not anti-gun. I have shot all kinds of weapon and have won shooting prizes. What I am against is the virtually uncontrolled possession of firearms as is the case in much of the USA.

---

Just as I thought: you indeed don't read my responses. "Wild west" isn't where I disputed the notions that the "only purpose" of guns is "to kill people". Dealing with wild animals is indeed another purpose, but what I refer to is the very clear and direct response on this very page: "I dispute that a gun's ONLY purpose is to kill. Most crimes that are prevented by use of a firearm are prevented without that firearm even being fired. It did not kill, maim, wound, or create pain. Some aren't even loaded! Its purpose then is to focus attention. Even to threaten (and when it's a counter-threat to a criminal, such a threat isn't only legal, but moral and ethical). But when it's effective when not activated (fired) in the vast majority of instances, I just don't find it accurate to say its 'only purpose is to kill.'"

Yet you trot out the same argument again, as if the point hasn't been addressed.

I also didn't say there's a requirement to cite sources in comments. I said I have a bias against emotion-laden lecturing over stating facts. What I've posted of your comments are the least emotion-laden, which says something.

You say the Constitutional right "does not oblige people to carry firearms" (correct); "it allows them to be carried to protect the country." Incorrect! The Supreme Court has ruled that it's an individual right to provide for personal defense.

You say you invoked Hitler "to provoke a response -- and it worked". If eye-rolling is the sort of response you were going for, you have very low standards.

Last, we agree: "What I am against is the virtually uncontrolled possession of firearms". Tens of thousands of laws on the books prove that it's not "virtually uncontrolled". What we lack is effective enforcement of many of these laws, in part because "the gun lobby" has promoted other laws that actually get in the way of enforcement (the hobbles on the ATF in particular are ridiculous). Fix that, and there's little if any need for more laws that aren't enforced either. -rc

Posted by Jeffrey, Omaha NE on February 25, 2013:

One last digression. The famous "invisible hand" would be expected to force these groups to meet the desires of the market. However, news (in the past) tended to have high barriers to entry. (This is changing with the internet). Higher education, Movie production, and TV production retains its cartel like character. This allows the self satisfaction to trump market satisfaction.

All of this gives me hope. Technology is rapidly lowering these barriers in everything but education. And it is starting to effect education as well (though afaik not at the university level yet).

---

Education too (example), in addition to the obvious commodification of video entertainment, as seen in the exploding number of cable channels. And I declare this the last post on this side thread: it doesn't really have anything to do with the topic at hand. -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on February 25, 2013:

Well, Richard, if the purpose of a statement is to provoke a response, it would be well to determine the purpose of the response, as well. Just to provoke "any" response is to serve little purpose. Methinks it's just a cover for a poorly thought out remark to begin with.

Still, I must thank you for your response concerning gun bans in other countries. You, yourself, acknowledge that banning guns still does not ELIMINATE guns. I've already pointed out that I don't dispute the fact that gun crimes (and gun deaths) are lower in countries where guns are banned. I've also pointed out that the same result can be accomplished by banning alcohol and enjoying lower alcohol-related deaths, but we've already seen the unintended consequences of that action.

In any case, I believe the minimual amount of "good" that can be accomplished by a total ban on firearms would be far outweighed by the "bad" that will result from the unintended consequences of such a ban. For example, one of our Supreme Court justices, Louis Brandeis, substantially codified the Right To Privacy, on the principle that the Greatest Right is to be "left alone" by the government. He predicated this Right on the innate association of our 1st AND 4th Amendments.

In order for a total gun ban to be effective in the United States, even if accomplished by a new Amendment, it would still require the subjugation of many other rights that Americans not only cherish, but for which we will fight to the death. We would not tolerate routine intrusions into our homes to ascertain that all guns are, indeed, non-existent, nor enact laws which would prevent us from even lamenting the loss of such weapons for protection. We do not subscribe to much of the "mind control" that we perceive to be active in the UK, as we call it the Nanny State. It wasn't Orwell, but something similar in which the author suggested that "good thinking" will be rewarded, but "bad" thinking will be punished.

I postulate that the question of "gun control" is not the issue. THAT has been discussed ad nauseum. We STILL have not discovered the "Right Questions." Hmm, where have I heard that one before?

Posted by Marcos (Spain) on February 25, 2013:

Mike: "We would not tolerate routine intrusions into our homes to ascertain that all guns are, indeed, non-existent, nor enact laws which would prevent us from even lamenting the loss of such weapons for protection."

Excuse me? What does that have to do with the ban? It may come as a surprise to you, but in many countries where gun ownership is so heavily regulated to be almost nonexistent there is no need to do house by house searches, nor does anybody risk being prosecuted for asking for a more liberal policy on gun ownership. I'm sorry, but you are blowing hot air in that part of your comment.

I may (not) agree with the arguments against gun control, but please don't act like Richard did. It only helps to muddy the waters.

Posted by Gregory, Chicago on February 25, 2013:

Richard: In the small section you addressed to me, you not only proved my point, but Randy's as well. Randy says (apologies if I don't paraphrase right, Randy!) that guns are not the issue, as people will find other weapons to use. So your comment that some people will still have guns even when not legal proves that the legality of guns is not an issue.

I'm glad you stick with your statement, even when you contradict yourself, because what I mentioned above applies equally to what I said in my previous reply to you. Yes, the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th regarding Prohibition. My question to you is as follows: Do you actually believe that the U.S. Government's political parties could actually agree with one another long enough to make another Constitutional Amendment repealing the Bill of Rights? They'd have an easier time with the First Amendment.

Randy responded to the comment about the purpose of the Second Amendment, but where you make my argument for me is when you say, "no guns=no gun crime", but then go right on to say next, (paraphrase) "But of course, even though there's no guns, because they were outlawed, there's still gun crime, even though there's no gun crime, because the outlaws still have guns, so we'll never be free of gun crime." You know what that sounds like? It sounds a LOT like that quote about "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns."

While I do not personally possess a firearm, I would consider myself to be about as pro-firearms as a U.S. Marine can get. If you don't like weapons, pal, you're in the wrong branch of service. That aside, as a Marine, you learn a lot about firearms and firearm safety, and I find myself agreeing with Randy when he argues that it's not the gun any more than it is the knife, the lead pipe, the candlestick, the rope, or any other weapon used by Col. Mustard in the study.

Go get a gun. Any one will do. Make sure it's loaded. Chamber a round. Then lay it on the desk and call it every nasty name you can think of. Invite some friends over, and have them make fun of the gun, too. I guarantee you that the gun will never stand up on the table and shoot you for making fun of him. This game also works with any other weapon, as well.

Now, same game, just one slight difference. This time, you give that gun to someone. Preferably someone with a real crappy attitude (or someone with minimal training that likes to show off. That will do, also.)

Variation # 2. Same game, someone still has the gun in hand, but this person is a highly trained, highly skilled marksman.

Now...here's where you need your thinking cap on...you ready? In which variation (or variations) does the gun NOT go off?

Posted by Mike from Dallas on February 25, 2013:

Marcos, there are, by estimate, some 300 million firearms in the US. Should there be a total ban, you can believe that 300 million firearms will not find their way to the destruction pile. How, then, should authorities determine who is hiding the weapons? And where there are weapons stashed, there will also be thefts. Burglaries are common. And so, there will continue to be gun crimes and violence. So, how will authorities address this "continuing" violence? Either a ban would be fairly worthless, or more draconian measures would be necessary to enforce such a ban.

Remember that in European countries, the culture is much more suited to what's considered "best" for the masses, while the US is nearly singularly unique in proud defiance of its own government. Why? Because our government is designed in such a way that we CAN. And are even [somewhat] expected to. Individual liberty takes priority over the masses except when such liberty is nearly guaranteed to be a threat to the masses. Although that distinction has been systematically repressed through recent decades, it's still the cornerstone of our culture.

People in Europe have a different regard for freedom of speech than Americans. Europeans are more lax in speech restrictions. Witness the conviction of Ernst Zundel in German in Feb 2007 for denying the Holocaust ever happened. That, by German law, is illegal. A British subject, Bishop Richard Williamson, was also convicted by a German court for the same offense.

From my reading of newspapers, the incident of rape in Sweden by immigrant Muslims toward their host country is especially problematic. It seems that Swedish law prohibits any kind of public speech pejorative toward any ethnic group. Swedish men have been criminally prosecuted for openly complaining about the rape of their women by Muslims.

In France, Article R625-4 of the French Penal Code makes it a crime to insult certain people in public. Americans hold freedom of speech to be sacrosanct. Europeans seem more cavalier about its loss since it's already diluted.

Sorry, but if we wanted to be more like Europe, we wouldn't have left there in the first place, whether it was 400 years ago or just 4 months ago.

Posted by TG, New Mexico on February 26, 2013:

As Mike said, we as a culture have been unable to arrive at the right questions regarding the roots of violence in our society. We know that banning guns doesn't work (just look at Jamaica), and yet we continue to argue the merits of gun control. As others have noted, we in the US have thousands of gun laws which need to be better enforced. I don't presume to know exactly what the right questions are, but I believe that they are questions of a cultural nature. I speak not of a "gun culture" but of a culture which has violence and sensationalism ingrained into every fiber of its being. Nowadays, one of the best ways to be remembered for a long time is to shoot up a bunch of people. Consider for a minute the fact that most Americans know who Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, James Holmes, and Adam Lanza are, but relatively few know who broke the sound barrier or formulated the theory of evolution. Today, the violent are glorified in the media, which focuses so much on the perpetrator of a crime and so little on the victims. Instead of remembering who shot up the mall, perhaps we should remember the victims and those who tried to fight back. Let the shooters fade into obscurity. Then maybe some sick bastard won't have such a motivation to kill just for his 15 minutes of fame.

PS: Mike, thank you for calling Bishop Williamson a 'subject.' Your doing so was a reminder that, in the UK, people do not have the rights that citizens are afforded, and that their rights are subject to the whim of a monarch.

Posted by Marcos (Spain) on February 27, 2013:

Mike wrote: "How, then, should authorities determine who is hiding the weapons?"

The same way as everywhere else: by police work. The USA is not the only place in the world with unlicensed guns, mind you. And yes, guns won't disappear in a day (or even a year) but that's an unrealistic expectation in any case.

I can't really fathom the relationship between talking about guns and hate speech (even if some laws are possibly restrictive).

Posted by Gregory, Chicago on February 28, 2013:

TG: You really hit the nail on the head when you spoke about how people all remember and glorify and canonize our mass murderers in the media. My very first post mentioned this. The more we hype these people in newspapers and magazines and TV, the more some other person with similar issues will think it's the greatest idea in the world to go play "shoot 'em up" at a school, because they will finally have in death what they never had in life: popularity, fame, their name in lights (metaphorically), their name will live forever, they'll have newspapers devoted to them, people will invoke their name forever more, people will write books about them, they'll be on TV, they'll be famous....

Yes, the more attention we give to people, the more encouragement there will be to commit crimes of ANY sort, regardless of weapon choice.

However, another post I made discusses the problems of the news media, be it print, online, television, etc. It's the nasty R word. Ratings. People pay to see their name in the top search results of google. There are countless stats to show where your website ranks in relation to the rest of the web and other similar sites. You count how many links there are pointing to your site. TV people live and die by the "ratings" their shows get. It could be the single greatest show ever shown on television, but if ratings are low, then it's gone. No waiting for a show to find a niche or an audience. Like music, if you're not a hit right away, then you're worthless. Print media needs to sell ads and make sure they have eyes on the page (which is similar to online media).

I don't know when the media became less about actual news, and more about "ratings" and web presence. One would THINK that if you had a good product ("If you build it...), they will come. Apparently, that's not true in the world of competitive ratings.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on March 1, 2013:

When the Virginia Tech massacre occurred, I really did have a hard time understanding the media frenzy about it. Sure, 32 people were murdered. But Syracuse University lost 35 students with the bombing of PanAm Flight 103. And with 16,000 murders annually in the US, that's an average of 44 per day. So one one day, 32 of those 44 happened in one location. Desensitized? I suppose so. But so are ALL of you who blithely accept that it goes on year after year.

Consider this list:
Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer, who murdered 10 people.
Nannie Doss, the Giggling Granny, who poisoned 11 family members.
Andre Crawford, who murdered 11 women.
William Suff, the Riverside Prostitute Killer, who killed 12 women.
Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler, who killed 14 women.
Carroll Cole, who murdered 16 people.
Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed and ate 17 boys and young men.
Joel Rifkin murdered 17 women.
William Bonin, the CA Freeway Killer, murdered 20 boys.
Larry Eyler, the Interstate Killer, racking up 22 people.
Ronald Dominique, 23 people.
Juan Corona, killed 25 men.
Dean Corll, the Candyman, who killed 28 boys.
Wayne Williams, the Atlanta Child Murderer of 28 children.
John Wayne Gacy, the Killer Clown, with the deaths of 33 boys and young men.
Gerard Schaefer, a Florida DEPUTY SHERIFF, who murdered 34 women and girls.
Ted Bundy, 35 women.
Charles Cullen, who as a nurse, killed at least 40 patients by lethal injection.
Gerald Stano, 41 women.
Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, 49 women.

Okay, OKAY, my god! Enough. And that's only 20 of the many dozens more serial killers who've murdered several people.

(Don't get me started on England; their numbers of serial killers outperform ours, even without guns.)

So what's my point? ALL of these people, and more, have committed MASS murders, and the entire country has NOT bogged down in discussion about curtailing rights, freedoms, liberties, or other major social changes to provide us with a false sense of safety or comfort. The only different between these killers and Adam Lanza is that they didn't all happen AT ONCE.

Why is it that we lament all these murders, shake our heads, and agree that something must be done, and then go on our merry ways? But let several happen all at once, even if just once in a year, and suddenly it's a critical crisis that must be permanently solved NOW. Even then I've read news reports where someone has plowed into a crowd with a car, killing a dozen or more people, yet there's been no cry for banning or more strict regulation of the tools used, or the people using them.

Whether or not you like guns; that's YOUR business. I don't criticize that. If you're afraid of guns, that's also YOUR business. I don't criticize that, either. But whatever solution you choose to apply, PLEASE make it consistent across the board. If killing people is the issue, then it's the issue no matter the method. But if it's really the method that is your issue, then don't preach about "safety." Obviously there is no safety without the presence of guns, either. Most people on the list of serial killers did not use guns.

Oh, and if guns have no place in a civilized society, then that applies to the police, too. And our troops. Remember a little incident at Fort Hood?

---

To your last point, most will respond "But that's different." The problem is, they don't really know where the line is to be drawn. Nor will they be able to adequately articulate why it's different.

And with that, Mike gets the last word: pretty much everything I care to read on this subject has been said -- several times. I doubt many will hack through this many comments already, so I don't see the point of adding more to the pile. Comments on this page are now closed. -rc

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