Friday, December 14, 2012

Guess we need to talk about it


To be clear on the point, I had other things I was going to write about today.

Posting on those subjects in the wake of today's tragedy would seem at best unassuming and at worst insensitive. It also raises political questions that need to be answered.

Yes, everyone says that a time like this is not one for politics, but for grieving and mourning.  There is truth to that and to exploit a tragedy for political gain is abhorrent, regardless of how noble the cause might or might not be.  However, it seems that discussion of the issue at hand never fully comes about and confronted.  Our leaders become politely apopemtic and we just sort of...hope it all blows over one day.  And it does.

Until it happens again.

Let's face it.  I'm talking about gun control.  For the longest time I have been a supporter of the right to own firearms and to use them in defense of one's self and family.  Right now, I need to re-evaluate my stance based on facts.  Ezra Klein at The Washington Post published Eleven facts about guns and mass shootings in America.  Check the link for sources on the figures, but I believe they of merit.  Here is a summary:

1.  Shooting sprees are not rare in the United States.  Additionally, in the overwhelming majority of such incidents, the offender obtained the firearms legally.

2. Eleven of the world's 20 worst shootings of the last 50 years took place in the United States.  Ranked behind us at number two is Finland with two shootings.

3. Lots of guns does not correlate to lots of violence.  The nations of Israel, Switzerland, and Canada are ample evidence of that fact.

4. Of the 11 deadliest shootings in the US, five have happened since 2007.  At the time of this writing, it's uncertain whether today's shooting will be ranked at number two or if it will claim the number one spot.

5. Among developed countries, the US is unusually violent, but we're getting less violent.  Rates of criminal assault are actually dropping.

6. The South is the most violent region in the US.  Take that for what you will.

7. Gun ownership in the US is on the decline.  In fact, it's almost at an all-time low.

8. More guns mean more homicides.  Not sure where they're getting this as it seems to wholly contradict entry number three.

9. States with stricter gun laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence.  Again, not sure how they're figuring that.  The state of Illinois has a few of the most strident gun laws in America.  On the other hand, Chicago has one of the highest murder rates in the nation.  Oh wait, I see it now: "The disclaimer here is that correlation is not causation." True.

10. Gun control, in general, has not been popular.  The majority of Americans citizens do not want to hear that they cannot purchase or own firearms.

11. But particular policies to control guns often are.  Examples of such policies include background checks, bans on semi-automatics, and bans on high capacity clips.

What is the answer then?  Despite the tragedy, I'm reminded of words from the venerable William Burroughs whom I paraphrase as saying: "Whenever there is a crime committed with guns, the first thing the government wants to do is punish people who have done nothing wrong." I am also reminded of how ineffectual bans on things have been.  Look at marijuana and alcohol for evidence of that.  It is also tempting to compare ourselves to other industrialized nations and their control of guns and comparably lower homicide rates.  I think those comparisons are unhelpful.

The US was born in blood.  We fought a war for independence and kept guns as a part of the home to protect us on the homestead and hunt for food.  Granted much of that is entirely unnecessary now, but it's not so easy to take that out of the national psyche.  That and any talk of gun laws tends to bring crazies out of the woodwork, claiming it's just another step towards the NWO. 

But people keep dying.  I call your attention to fact #4 in that five of our deadliest shootings have happened in just the past four years.  Does that mean a trend?  I don't know.  What is the solution with guns?  Again, I don't know.

Comfortable or not, however, we're going to have to have this political discussion.
And soon.


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