I had a number of views to my last post. A couple (and I mean “a couple”) of readers bothered to click on the links, and save for a couple (probably the same ones who read the links), no one replied or commented.
That’s as expected, and just as well; I was not intending to go on with what has been a frustrating exercise in trying to instill logic in discussions I’ve had on other sites.
However, one of my readers did post a thoughtful comment. It’s at the bottom of the previous post, and I thought she deserved a respectful reply. My response grew to a length which made it more practical to apply to a post (I’m not known for being “pithy”). So, presented below are her comment and my reply.
Here is the comment (from Emily Heath):
“I read to the end and the links. I disagree with you, but that doesn’t mean I think any less of you as a person, and I respect your views. I just think we come from different cultures – you come from one which has normalised a gun culture, and I do not.
From the Time.com piece you linked to: “Opportunity and unlucky serendipity play a big role too. People with ready access to guns are likelier to use them than people who have to work to get their hands on a weapon.”
This is why I think having lots of guns about, often actually in the household of these young boys, or within reach by walking into a gun shop, doesn’t help. I can’t think of one mass shooting in the UK. Obviously we’re a much smaller country, but still that’s probably also because we do have far fewer guns floating around here. If I knew some of my crazy neighbours, who like to drink and argue a lot, could walk into a gun shop down the road and emerge with several deadly weapons I’d be rather worried.
Here’s why I’m skeptical about your person sitting outside in a car idea. Putting aside the price of paying someone for every school, or the logistics of organising a bunch of volunteers, I think the psychology of bank robbers and mass murderers is rather different. Bank robbers want to get in and out with the money as quickly as possible, so that they can go spend the money. So I can see a police car outside being an excellent deterrent.
Someone committing a mass murder on the other hand, probably has no plans to emerge afterwards. As the Time.com piece says, “However long it takes the killing to play out, when the crime is finally over, the shooter almost never expects to survive. Indeed, he typically doesn’t want to.” So is someone sitting in a car outside, even a police car, likely to have the same effect?
This is Charlie Brooker’s response to the posting of the video you linked to above: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/17/newtown-shooting-helpless-charlie-brooker. He concludes “Over the past few days a fair few people have retweeted an excerpt from a show I made in 2009 in which a psychologist urged news organisations not to sensationalise their coverage of massacres, on the basis that this had the potential to inspire further tragedies. That may well be true, and there’s no harm pursuing it. But the best way to improve media coverage of massacres is to prevent massacres. And try as I might, I can’t think of a better way to prevent massacres than reducing the number of guns in circulation.”
First of all, thanks for your response. If you don’t mind, I will respectfully reply to some of the points you make.
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I’m not sure the words “normalized a gun culture” apply. It is just as illegal here to misuse guns as it is where you live. The difference is you guys have stricter laws regarding possession. That, in part, is a matter of logistics. I might point out that were it legal to do so, a larger percentage of your population would be likely to own guns (some still do).
There is the real cultural difference; your acceptance that your personal safety is not under your own jurisdiction. In other words, you cannot take steps for self-defense. It is illegal in the UK to use a weapon for self-defense. That goes against the very nature of many Americans, and indeed, against my nature.
The acceptance of “public safety” in exchange for the (admittedly small) chance of becoming a helpless victim, a statistic, if you will, is definitively not something I would willingly agree to. Can I be forced into it? Sure; you can bully people into anything.
Related to that is the perception I have of the UK; that of a “Bobby on every corner”. The UK has 307 police officers per 100,000 people. The US has 257 per 100,000 people . . .
. . . the UK has about 94,000 square miles of land. The US has about 3,794,000 square miles of land.
Law enforcement response time where I live is about 20 minutes – I live at the top-most edge of the county, and I am covered by the El Paso County Sheriff’s office. Depending where the closest deputy is, the response could be a bit shorter, or a bit longer.
That adds to my desire to hold a measure of responsibility for my personal protection, rather than rely on help to come quickly.
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One question, because you mention it . . . I’ll ask you why you are concerned your crazy drunken neighbors might go buy weapons, but not worried they might go at each other with knives, a cricket bat, or even a hammer (hammers can be deadly, applying tremendous force over a very small area). For that matter, are you concerned they might come after you? Or would that only happen if they had guns? What’s keeping them from doing it now? That seems to point to a preconceived notion that the gun itself is the trigger for violence. I would be more worried about them being crazy and drunk.
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You also choose a quote from the Time.com article that implies the availability of guns as a trigger for mass shootings, but neglect all the surrounding stuff that goes along with that quote, and especially neglect the stuff in the first page of the article, which speaks to the incidence and type of mass shootings.
Specifically, that frequency has not changed in the last 25 years, and that the people are well outside what we might classify as the norm with respect to human empathy, reasoning, and the range of human behavior. One other item contradicting the statement you quote is that most rampages are planned, sometime over a number of months. Planned by what are usually smart and driven individuals . . . they may be nuts, but they are not incapable. No one has implied their intention would change if guns were not as readily available.
As for mass shootings in the UK, that history I know well, as it’s held up as a model for what might/should/will happen here (depending who’s talking – “we’re a few mass murders away from more bans” has been stated by both sides). Here is the link touching on the whole topic, but I will summarize below.
The Hungerford massacre of 1987 and the Dunblane school massacre of 1996 resulted in England having some of the strictest gun laws in the world (enacted in 1997). In that same link, you can read about the restrictions, and what firearms are allowed (practically none).
In 2010, three years after those laws were enacted and in-force, the Cumbria shootings led to 13 fatalities and 11 injured when Derrick Bird shot and killed three people connected to himself, and 12 others in an apparently random shooting spree before turning the gun on himself. Bird used a double-barrelled shotgun and a .22-calibre rifle. Neither are even spoken of being banned in the US, or in the UK (the link provides what is legal, if highly regulated).
Proponents of gun control laws point to this as an anomaly, yet that is precisely the type of crime being used to “pressure” the US government to ban assault rifles. A rampage shooting by a lone, crazed individual. I fail to see how any law will keep someone else of the same ilk from repeating the crime. Certainly, England’s then (strict) laws did not prevent it.
The argument then shifts to the frequency bit, and how England has less. I see this as avoiding the primary question, which is “why did the 1997 law not stop the 2010 massacre from occurring?” I could also ask . . . how can you, or anyone, be assured those same laws will keep it from happening again?
And yes, there are frequencies issues, but that part is not clearly understood, and other factors play into that equation.
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The above link lists the 530-or-so murders in England for 2012. Of those only 30 or so were with a gun (a big drop from last year, but seeing as the laws have not changed, it can’t be attributed to the actual gun laws). 220 of those murders were committed with a knife. As the murder rate increased for a number of years following the enactment of guns laws, what changed was the weapon involved.
This link lists the murder rate for various countries:
The rate of murders in the UK is currently (2009) at 11.5 per million.
The US current (2010) murder rate is somewhere around 48 per million. Four times as much, and that’s for all murders.
However, people like to look at only gun murders, and then, yes, the US is higher . . . we own more guns. It should be noted a third of US murders are committed without guns.
What people do not look at, or take into account, is who is being murdered, and by whom. We have areas with massive gang problems, we have heavy drug trade, meth users, etc.
Those statistics are available (FBI, CDC, DoJ) as a way to try to understand and define the problem, and what might be done about it. The problem being murders. There is nothing the US government has proposed that would stop that portion of the killings, shootings, and victimization of young and old.
Yet I am told that if my ability to buy/own/carry a gun is curtailed, things will get better. I fail to see soundness in that logic.
But there is more . . . In the last decade the US murder rate has dropped to the lowest since the 1950’s (FBI latest statistics), even as during that time we doubled our population, and greately increased the number of guns in circulation. How does that work, exactly? Where is the logic in it?
I could be crass and make this simple conclusion:
More people, more gun, less crime. By the way, murder in England shot up after the ban on gun ownership, and has only dropped in the past few years (as it has elsewhere).
In fact, for a number of years, crime in both our countries has been on a downward trend (ours faster then yours). Given no major gun legislation change in either country, I welcome explanations, but I find it difficult to believe gun control laws (which, if anything, have become more lax here in the US) are responsible.
Perhaps the fact we have the largest percentage of incarcerated citizen in the world has something to do with it, but that is not clear either. Experts don’t know either.
I am not an expert by any means, but were I to venture a guess, and this will highlight my own arm-chair psycho-economic-babble, it’s because of the advent of the Internet, the interconnectivity of not just local populations, but the world. It’s a pollyannish view, and probably overly optimistic.
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Finally, I’ll address what I perceive to be a slight misconception regarding my suggestion. The presence of people (either off-duty cops, or people properly trained and deputized) in the school is not a deterrent. It’s to confront the attacker as quickly as possible. If you read the two articles I linked, attacks stop immediately upon resistance, even if from a single individual. The attacker(s) either surrenders, or does us a favor and takes his own life. That is the pattern. They are not looking for a battle, but to make a statement, at least according to what we understand of their behavior.
That ties a bit to the comment about the video. Charlie Brooker did not refute the comments from the psychologist. He added his opinion as to the best way to prevent massacres, in addition to the suggested way to cover these stories.
. . . news agencies continue to plaster the event across multiple media.
I respectfully disagree with Mr. Booker. For one, there is no evidence less guns prevent massacres (per your own 2010 tragedy). It might have an effect as to frequency, but even that is unclear. That aspect of the discussion has been covered in some of the articles I linked.
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I’ll conclude with what I keep stressing, but that many ignore.
Humans are very good at reacting to the sensational. None of the proposed legislation (here, in the US), would have prevented this latest massacre. But even more disturbing, is that it’s clear to me these events are used by politicians to push for legislation they know will not do anything, but will win them points with their base. And conversely, politicians opposing the legislation will win points with their base.
The proposed legislation does nothing to stop these anomalies, and does nothing to stop everyday abuses and unlawful behavior.
It’s a trite refrain, but all these rule target people who are not going to break the law to begin with. I want to hear how we stop the people who ignore the laws in the first place. I want to hear how we keep people from being killed every day, and not just those who are killed during sensational, headlines-grabbing events.
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Thank you Emily, for the opportunity to have a normal, civilized discussion. A welcome change from my recent fare.
I can certainly appreciate both the fact I am not likely to change yours or anyone’s mind, and that for once, I’m not being looked at like some knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing ogre whose only interest is in being able to kill a large number of people with a single trigger pull.
Please, if you are considering bestowing me some recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so. I will decline nominations whereby one blogger bestows an award onto another blogger, or group of bloggers. I appreciate the intent behind it, but I would much prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way. That would actually mean something to me.
Should you still nominate me, I will strongly suspect you pulled my name at random, and that you are not, in fact, a reader of my blog. If you wish to know more, please read below.
Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not personally hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.
. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.