Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Gun Control: Leftist conspiracy or sensible social policy?

with 15 comments

homer_gun.jpg
Some people shouldn’t have guns…

Like so many issues in this great land of ours, gun control has been polarized by self serving politicians and extremists, to the point where sensible debate is all but impossible. (I find extremists on any issue tiresome, and this is one of the worst.) So of course our social policy never really changes, and like so many other issues, the USA lags decades behind the rest of the west in his regard. Whether this is good or bad is debatable, sort of, but what is not debatable is that gun violence in America is a problem. In year 2000 figures, the USA was number eight on the list of the world’s gun homicide rate by nations. This is frankly, shameful.

My position on guns is twofold: I think a tremendous amount could be done to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, children, and lunatics…without infringing on anyone’s rights. I have no problem with waiting periods, buy-back programs, trigger guards, and limits on types of guns and the amount of ammunition they can hold. Since the individual right to bear arms is clearly and safely protected by the constitution, I find it downright annoying that the NRA and others fight any and all restrictions on gun ownership. Sorry guys and gals, and I speak as a former NRA member, the second amendment clearly states: “A well regulated militia…”

Secondly, the people that think guns are the problem and that gun control alone will fix it are also barking up the wrong tree. Gun violence is a complex social problem, there are plenty of countries with restrictive gun laws that have terrible gun crime. There is at least one country where citizens are issued assault rifles and required to keep them in their homes that has virtually no gun crime. Why some countries have a lot of gun crime and others don’t is a complex issue. Europe had far less gun crime than the US long before they banned most private gun ownership. Some Eastern European countries passed carry laws recently to fight the crime wave than ensued after the Russians pulled out. (A carry law is a law that allows qualified citizens to own and carry a weapon.) For every example about gun violence and guns laws, there is a counter example.

There is no doubt that there is a culture of gun violence and violent retribution in America. I think that is a huge and understated part of the problem, and most people don’t want to look at it because it’s complex and hard to understand. (In actuality, in some ways it’s pretty simple to understand: Monkey see, monkey do.) Violent movies and violent video games don’t cause gun violence, but they sure as hell aren’t helping. And having a government that freely exercises the “right” to bomb people anywhere on the planet also isn’t helping. Violent song lyrics are part of the problem. Then of course there is the endless flow of reporting on and images of violent crimes coming from our news media. (Heck, they might as well start a “Virginia Tech Killer Cable Network” at this point.) My point is that by living in a world where people are immersed in a sea of violent messages and images…is it any wonder that too many unstable Americans resort to violence to solve their problems?

So I certainly am in favour of efforts to keep guns out of the hands of people who might misuse them, and that includes most young people. I was an irresponsible gun owner as a young man, and honestly think that since guns are more dangerous than alcohol, maybe they should be restricted to people 25 and over. I also don’t see any need for people to own guns that can fire massive amounts of ammunition in a short time. Either restriction might have mitigated or prevented the massacre at Virginia Tech. Conversely the carry law people do have a point, I’m willing to bet that there are professors at Virginia Tech who are mature and responsible enough to carry a gun. It’s a lot harder to gun down people who cannot shoot back, and I suspect it’s a lot less tempting. Would the pathetic immature coward who pulled this massacre off even have attempted it, had he known some of his victims might be able to fight back?

In the final analysis, all of the above is just attacking the symptoms. Which is just fine as far as it goes, but if there’s an overall observation I would make, it’s that stable settled countries with a high degree of social fairness (IE few slums and poor people) are the ones with little or no violent crime. Until the day America is one of those countries, (and I’m afraid we seem to be moving in the opposite direction,) crime and gun violence is going to be a problem. I can only hope that this tragedy inspires us to look for reasonable stopgap and long term solutions to our failings as a society

Snort. In reality there will likely be some ultimately toothless laws passed purely for show, and the problem will be further compartmentalized as colleges “increase security” by further isolating their students. Security consultants, firms, and talking heads will cash in handsomely for some time to come. The gun industry won’t even be fazed and may even make more sales as people buy guns to protect themselves. No change will be made in the social areas that are fostering crime and violence, we won’t even discuss them. Immigrant bashers, Asian bashers and gun bashers will have a cause célèbre for years to come. And none of this will make a dent on the problem of gun violence in America.

So sooner or later, coming to a venue near you: Virginia Tech II

(The above Simpsons image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and it is central to illustrating the post. The Simpsons were created by Matt Groening.)

Written by unitedcats

April 19, 2007 at 10:57 am

Posted in Crime, Philosophy

15 Responses

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  1. Outstanding post, Doug. I will reference it if you don’t mind.

    I am also emailing you with some more thoughts as I don’t want to pen too long a comment.

    Very well articulated, very well written.

    -Jack

    bereans

    April 19, 2007 at 12:13 pm

  2. Thanks, and always happy to be referenced. Knock on wood I guess, I suppose there’s some sites I wouldn’t want to be referenced on. :) –Doug

    unitedcats

    April 19, 2007 at 12:49 pm

  3. I mostly agree with what you’ve written here. For one thing, the ubiquitous use of violent imagery as a pastime is surely a contributing factor. That a nation can be so sensitive to sexual images (e.g. a nanosecond’s exposure to Janet Jackson’s nipple will corrupt the nation’s youth) yet maintain that violent imagery has no social consequences defies belief.

    One small quibble: Would the pathetic immature coward who pulled this massacre off even have attempted it, had he known some of his victims might be able to fight back? I assume he planned from the outset to die in the building. It may still be true to call him a coward (suicide is a cowardly act) but I doubt the threat of death would have deterred him.

    I’m a pro-gun control Canadian. But I can see some logic to having professors armed against an eventuality like this one. Of course, that gives rise to other worries: that an angry student will get hold of the professor’s weapon, that the professor will shoot an innocent person by mistake, etc.

    But you’re right, VTII is going to happen because American culture is not going to change suddenly. If Columbine didn’t do it, Virginia Tech won’t either. So maybe Americans should think outside the box, brainstorm to generate some constructive options. I know these deaths are few in number, statistically speaking, but surely Americans shouldn’t shrug their shoulders and do nothing.

    Stephen

    April 19, 2007 at 12:58 pm

  4. I wonder why there must be Police and Army in a society if every person can maintain his own Militia. The Second Amendment was made in a context when this young nation was surrounded by strong predators including Britain, France, Spain and Mexico and the nation didnt have enough resources to maintain a strong police/judiciary system on its own. Coming after the victorious George Washington’s forces made of everyday commoners, the clause was understandable then.

    But, now the society has matured enough and when billions could be spent on security of some middle east land, the government can spend enough to beef up more of police and law-enforcement in its own heartland. If the individuals have to keep their own militia to keep them safe, it doesnt sound like a First World nation, but rather like Afganistan, Zimbabwae and Rwanda where everybody needs to protect themselves with guns. I’m sure US is not that bad yet. A Canadian or a Brit or an Aussie doesn’t need to protect themselves with guns, and they spend much less on their national defense, and their homicide rate is far lower. Even a third world nation like India has far more peaceful campuses with no history of a major shootout in any of its major educational institutions in history.

    If people are so hard-pressed to defend themselves with only AK47s and automatic weapons, why not legalize bombs and other explosives too. After all, if a “law-abiding” citizen had a nuclear bomb or a truck load of TNT it will totally stop crimes in the nation.

    Anyway, this first world nation still believes that it needs to compete with South Africa and Zimbabwae in homicide rate and having lived here for few years, I’m sure no American would take good examples from rest of world and going to question their outdated Second Amendment. But, for starters atleast automatic and semi-automatic weapons could be banned and a background check be made before selling other dangerous weapons like rifles and pistols. Is this too much of an ask?

    Balaji Viswanathan

    April 19, 2007 at 4:46 pm

  5. Excellent post. I have bookmarked this.

    I have a feeling though that your politicians will be pushing this on their agenda as well.

    theboinq

    April 19, 2007 at 7:25 pm

  6. Stephen: Well, I would agree regarding deterring Cho. I was trying to allude to the idea that turning campuses into completely gun free zones may not be the best way to protect them. And more generally to the fact that many criminals are indeed deterred by victims with guns.

    Eveyone else: This is a wonderful and terrible example of why I say American is like Disneyland with guns.

    unitedcats

    April 19, 2007 at 9:02 pm

  7. Yes, the media keeps pushing out Cho’s vomit, and it influences the wack jobs.

    The media is a whore..

    It should only be pictures and stories of the dead. And the killers ‘manifesto’ should have been circle filed.

    ET

    April 20, 2007 at 6:53 am

  8. I don’t wish to attempt at writing a complex and compelling opinion as to why or why not gun laws are sufficient. My opinion is merely that of a passer-by. I think that we could improve gun law via better background tests and qualifying test, but on the flip side I don’t think guns should be restricted on any campus or any public place; even more so, I think everyone should carry a concealed weapon, and be trained to use if necessary. The fact that Cho entered into this school and gunned down 30+ people is because 1. Failure to notice the problems before the occurred 2. Campus security error 3. Lack of resistance for the gunman. Lets look at 3. If Cho would have walked in and started firing and upon doing so was responded to by firing, he wouldn’t have continued killing the people like cattle. Especially, if one of the students (that had a canceled weapon) were to shoot and have killed him, then the result would have been different.
    The phrase is true that says “criminals will always have guns” this is not limited to crazy people, psychotic or disturbed people either–they will always have a way to get guns if they are driven to do what they want. To counter-act that, we must have a well-regulated militia and be prepared to meet such terrorist acts.

    john

    April 20, 2007 at 10:24 am

  9. Yes, it is interesting to note that if Ho had been a crazed Muslim, the right would have been screaming terrorism from here to the Moon. However, since his diatribe was crazed Christian ramblings, he’s just a nut. Go figure.

    unitedcats

    April 20, 2007 at 10:55 am

  10. Also… the militia is now the National Guard, no?

    Kullervo

    April 20, 2007 at 11:09 am

  11. No, the National Guard may have some of its origins in various militias, but it is now part of the US Army under the command of Washington. It is no longer a militia in any way, shape, or form…and people that argue it is such are being disingenuous at best.

    unitedcats

    April 20, 2007 at 12:29 pm

  12. Unitedcats,
    That is true, and well said!

    john

    April 20, 2007 at 9:36 pm

  13. Gun control is hitting what you aim at..

    Lets do a ‘war on guns’ too eh?

    After all the war on drugs, and the war on terrorism, and the war on poverty, have all done so well?

    If you dont like our second amendment and well established traditions of same, please dont move here.

    ET

    April 22, 2007 at 8:02 am

  14. And as it turns out, the VT killer should not have been able to purchase the guns he purchased. Sadly there has been no hue and cry about this, I think it should be thoroughly investigated and the people responsible for this failure should be prosecuted. If we can’t even be bothered to enforce the gun laws already on the books there’s no point in writing new ones.

    unitedcats

    April 22, 2007 at 8:28 am

  15. It’s not about “gun” crime, it’s about crime period. If banning gun increases OVERALL crime then it’s unjustified — even if it lowers one type of crime.

    That said, the UK banned handguns. Within 4 years, hand GUN crime was up. Google “UK gun ban crime”. A BBC article is number one.

    Militia

    December 3, 2007 at 5:00 pm


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