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Big Guns[1]

Just when you thought you were rid of a Bad Penny. I turn up again. Mwhahahahaha! Actually, Charlie asked me to continue because things went so well, and the situation is mutually beneficial. I won't be here every day, but I will appear at least twice a week, maybe more for as long as Charlie wants me. I'll check the comments once a day too, maybe more--depending upon how much of my own work I get done. Don't worry. Charlie will be back. You aren't stuck with me. During my stay here I've wandered into quite a few sensitive subject categories.[2] Ignoring problems doesn't solve them. Discussing them, does. The more complicated the issue, the better off we are in talking about it. Like anything important, there's a balance to it, mind you, but Charlie did a brilliant job of creating this space, and the moderators do fabulous work keeping it that way. Sooo... let's talk about... violence.

I've been attracted to the whole warrior thing since I was a little kid--I wanted to be one. I'm not sure why. Most little girls don't.[3] Maybe it's due to being female and living in a world where female is not the norm? All things male are considered more desirable, after all--even literature is dominated by male interests. (Write about female interests and you're likely to end up ignored or ridiculed.) I very much didn't want to grow up to be like Mrs. Clever on the  Leave it to Beaver re-runs. I wanted  to be an independent human being with a personality of my own. I wanted to have adventures. I wanted to do stuff. I was also very thin, tall, and shy. So, I was bullied.[4] Early on, I went through an extensive King Arthur period. I blame Camelot. That whole "might for right" thing was coooool. Therefore, I wanted to be knight when I grew up. (Among other things.) However, the Vietnam War was happening at the same time. I remember the anti-war protests. I remember the students being shot for having the audacity to declare themselves in favor of peace. I remember returning soldiers being spit upon too. (Our next door neighbor served in Vietnam.) Add to this the fact that when I was seventeen a student shot and killed another student in my school cafeteria. Note: my school was one of the affluent, "safe" schools in the area.[5] I wasn't scheduled for lunch until after it happened, mind you. It still hit me pretty hard. All of these experiences taught me that violence is terrible, and violence should be a last resort to the point of not being considered an option.

After studying NI for years, I've come to the conclusion that there is an economic factor to violence. When a nation's economy bottoms out an escalation in violence occurs. America has been in an economic decline since 2000. Reading about the latest mass murder spree in Connecticut--America's seventh in 2012 alone, depending upon how many casualties one uses to determine the use of "mass murder." One thing is for certain, two of the bloodiest such incidents in American history occurred in 2012--within months of one another. If you ask me, we are beyond the point of needing stricter gun laws. Clearly, making semi-automatic guns available and guns in general easier to purchase has worsened the problem, not lessened it.[6] I do not believe that arming citizens is the answer because of the research that I've done about human beings in emergency situations. Statistical data indicates that those trained to perform under emergency conditions are known to harm innocent bystanders and their own team members. (Ah, friendly fire.) What makes anyone think that an untrained individual could perform better, is beyond me. That said, the easy availability of guns in America isn't the only factor. I believe the economy is as well, and we need to address it. (Austerity isn't the answer. If it were, Greece would be great shape.) As I keep saying, the problem is a complex one. If it were as easy as restricting guns or having them be more available, then violence wouldn't be a problem. Period.

That said, I do believe in stricter gun control, and it's past time Americans did something about it. However, I find it interesting that no one seems to have snapped to the economic factor in violence.

-----------------------------

[1] Because I'm listening to Rory Gallagher this morning. And, you know... Rory Gallagher.

[2] Politics? Check. Religion? Check. Feminism? Check. There are only two more I can think of and that's violence and sex.

[3] And every time I hit that part in Hogfather when the little girl asks for a castle, an army and a sword I grin because that was me all over.

[4] Strangely, if someone bullied other kids, I often screwed up what little courage I had and stood up for the kid in question. But if I was the target I rarely did anything about it. Although, there was one time that a kid did push me way too far, and I punched him. Luckily for me, the bus driver only saw the bully poised for retaliation. (So the driver said, anyway.) The bully got busted. I didn't. He also stopped picking on me.

[5] Our school was almost 100% white too. I don't view that as a good thing. My freshman year we had zero persons of color in my school. My junior year, we had one POC student. My senior year, we had two. I felt sorry for those kids. The crap they endured was massive. America likes to pretend we don't have race issues. That's bull crap.

[6] Yes, that's a hippie magazine. If you don't like what it has to say, try here, or you could go here but the government's data is out of date.

377 Comments

1:

I happen to agree with you, Stina. In the wake of the last two tragedies (and thankfully, two shootings near my family that were squelched without injuries), I'd suggest two responses to the "arming America" crowd.

--For the "arming citizens" argument to be correct, we need a lot more examples of armed citizens preventing massacres. To my knowledge, we don't In Colorado, two active-duty marines (on leave) were in that theater, and both of them hit the deck rather than try and shoot back. When Gabby Giffords was shot, one of them men who wrestled down the shooter had a gun and didn't use it. To me, both of these cases suggest that shooting back is a difficult solution, because trained professionals (armed in at least one case) didn't attempt to shoot when they could have.

--Second issue is that most of the "arming citizens" crowd might be advocating for the wrong guns. Obviously, I'm *not* arguing that people should walk around with assault rifles. Problem is, most of these people want to carry the biggest pistol they can find, and that might be the wrong answer. For pistols 9 mm and larger in caliber, the standard training is to take two shots at the center of the target's mass. In the last three mass shootings, the shooters were wearing body armor, which would prevent precisely this tactic (especially in the chaos of the shooting). The proper gun for confronting a shooter wearing body armor might be a 22 LR pistol (LR is long rifle). These are highly accurate but lack the stopping power of the big pistols, so anyone training with this for self defense has to train for head shots or similarly lethal targets. In two of the three last tragedies, the shooter was not apparently wearing head armor, and could have been taken out by a head shot. Note that, with point #1 above, we're entering Batman territory here, engaging a crazed killer armed with an assault rifle with your highly-accurate peashooter and going for a golden shot. Unfortunately, that might be a better option than emptying the clip of your glock at a crazed gunman.

As Stina noted, there are a lot better options than arming citizens, and that's the ultimate point here.

2:

Hurm. I think this is a fairly simple one: Asimov had Salvor Hardin say that "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." And what is the singular characteristic that all these shooters have in common? That they were incompetent.

The problem then is that in contemporary America the price of incompetency is very, very high indeed. Add to this that the bar for "competency" has been raised over the decades to the point where 99% (or 99.9%) of us are now considered sorry little losers . . .

3:

I have in fact jumped right to the economic basis, and some others, in many comments. But I'm not a big-name columnist that anyone will notice. Pushing to the wall by social expectations of conformity, roll fulfillment, and competition; culture of celebrity; mainstream culture fetishizing guns as magical while denying any real information; and very poor access to mental health help (plus stigmatization). Together they add up to trouble, and of course any major societal stressor, like the economic situation, makes things worse.

But what's this about it becoming easier to get guns? Nothing has changed in that area in the last decade. And that article is flat-out factually wrong in at least one other area -- Minnesota carry law does not allow carrying while intoxicated. It does allow carrying in bars -- that is, it says nothing about bars. What it does say is that your permit does not authorize carrying at a blood alcohol content above .04 (half the limit for driving). I personally think BAC is a much saner rule than location! (I live in Minnesota, have had a carry permit for nearly 10 years, and have been a Minnesota carry permit instructor though I'm not currently doing that.)

4:

There is such a LONG list of things going on that you could write a book. I could write a book, but I don't have time these days...

Short version-
1)De-institutionalization of the mentally ill. We're talking the seriously fracked-up-in-the-head mentally ill. Crime rates go up massively in the US when a lot of the mentally ill were let out on the streets (I blame Ken Kesley). There's a great book called "My Brother Ron:A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill" that I recommend on this subject. And, it's cheap on Kindle...
2)Gun-free zones where shooters know they won't be opposed. Which means most schools, the theater in Aurora, Colorado, etc, etc.
3)The economy, stupid. A lot of people are in very poor and desperate circumstances. Stress is not cumulative, it's exponential.
4)A culture and legal system that is steadily demonstrating that if you have a penis, you are at most a bank account and sperm donor for women. The victory of third wave feminism in action.

It's a tragedy, to be certain. But, it is a failure of people. And gun bans only ensure that criminals have guns and people commit mass murders with other weapons.

5:

Ok, before anything else, let me say that you, Stina, are engaging my brain and keeping me checking back here, so I'm happy to have you back. I did need my Wiki-fu to find out what "Leave it to Beaver" meant though; I don't think it's ever been screened East of the Ditch.

Also, I'm going to agree that arming the general citizenry just might be a very bad idea, if only because guns are useless except in the hands of people who are actually prepared to pull the trigger. (Aside on the Marines in Aurora, Colorado; were they packing? Even if they were, did they duck and cover from pure self-preservation, or because they were trying to identify legitimate target(s) rather than randomly firing into the citizenry they had volunteered to protect? My experience of current and former USMC personnel makes me think that they were trying to identify targets.)

6:

I believe that there are some problems with gun control.

First, if you cannot trust people with guns, can you really trust them with a government? The whole principle of democracy is that your population is intelligent enough to govern themselves.

And, in the context of the states, there's another issue, having to do with history. (What does gun control mean, when your population is already armed -- and while perhaps "most people" do not own weapons, a significant fraction of the population does.) To make gun control work you would have to (a) confiscate millions of guns, and (b) deal with all the people who are capable of making new guns and who feel entitled to do so.

And then there's the whole "who watches the watchers" problem -- if you are forcing your way into millions of homes, to take away their weapons, you are going to be creating traditions which will have further consequences.

Anyways, gun control seems like an easy way to avoid dealing with people, but I am dubious about discussions of the issue which ignore the above issues.

7:

A thoughtless comparison with the uk would seem to indicate that more lives are lost to self defense weapons than are saved by them. Unless you think you can find a significance that can balance that (like self defense weapons preventing bullying at 100* the rate at which they cost lives), then you have to concede the validity of gun control legislation.

8:

Ditto that: "Leave it to Beaver" is something I've heard of but never seen.

I have comments about gun violence in the US to deliver, but want to think them through a bit further first.

9:

I mostly agree with you that gun control should be increased, but find three objections that won't quite go away:

1) The second ammendment was written to ensure that power, in the real and tangible form of guns, was retained by the people. This puts a final check on the government's powers of oppression, and eliminating that check would decrease one risk while increasing another.

2) Many American gun nuts are already terrified that the government will take their guns. Playing into their persecution complex is not likely to be helpful; it's likely to spark far more killings.

3) Drugs are illegal. (Imitating Dr. Phil) How is that working for you?

10:

First, if you cannot trust people with guns, can you really trust them with a government? The whole principle of democracy is that your population is intelligent enough to govern themselves.

Utterly specious. Let's replace guns with [some other weapon]: "if you cannot trust people with atom bombs, can you really trust them with a government?" Answer: go look at Japan, where guns are utterly verboten. Or the UK, or Australia. All democracies. All roughly as functional as the USA -- each has rough edges, usually in different places, but so does the US.

And then there's the whole "who watches the watchers" problem -- if you are forcing your way into millions of homes, to take away their weapons, you are going to be creating traditions which will have further consequences.

See also: the war on drugs.

I think what you have a problem with is a culture of violence, not just easy access to weapons.

11:

"Ok, before anything else, let me say that you, Stina, are engaging my brain and keeping me checking back here, so I'm happy to have you back."

Back at you. Y'all have certainly kept me on my toes. I enjoy a good debate because I learn so much.

I did need my Wiki-fu to find out what "Leave it to Beaver" meant though; I don't think it's ever been screened East of the Ditch."

Oops. I should've provided a link. Sorry about that.

"(Aside on the Marines in Aurora, Colorado; were they packing? Even if they were, did they duck and cover from pure self-preservation, or because they were trying to identify legitimate target(s)"

Based upon what I've read they were in fact armed. The attacker was covered in head to toe body armor. It wouldn't have done any good.

12:

I am not convinced that guns are equivalent to atomic bombs.

I will agree that many countries have a form of democratic government and an unarmed populace, but I would like to see a deeper discussion of this issue than "guns = weapons of mass destruction".

As for the war on drugs... that one is a topic that deserves separate treatment. Also included in that discussion are the use of drugs in medical care, the bogus line that medical care is health care (it's only valid in emergency situations -- usually health is achieved through proper diet, exercised, a good schedule, clean air, clean water), as well as various international relations subjects (not limited to economics).

13:

I really wish I could go back and clean up bad grammar in my posts. I hope people will forgive my horrible sentence structures.

14:

Something strikes me about all the "If the teachers were armed, this wouldn't have happened" reaction.

A shooting occurs. You carry a gun, so you decide to stop the killer. You approach the scene, and you see 1 armed people, with corpses everywhere. So you shoot. And kill the teacher who just used his amazing sharpshooter skills to kill the mass murderer.

I mean, even leaving aside the question of friendly fire, how do you know that the gun-carrying guy you've got before you is not a serial killer? Because he's got good looks and/or a white hat, like in the movies?

15:

I am not convinced that guns are equivalent to atomic bombs.

Troll alert: you're playing the game of "If you can't make me say I'm wrong I win."

You've advanced an argument. Charlie has expressed skepticism and given a reason for why he's skeptical. You do not get to say you're "not convinced" by his skepticism, nor do you get to decide by fiat what the default assumptions are. What's next, are you going to say that you're "not convinced" that guns are the equivalent of armored tanks? Or remotely piloted drones?

Nope. Not gonna play that one.

16:

I think you've nailed most of the larger issues. It's a hideous mess of different factors, the largest being cultural, but like with cars, the more guns you have it becomes easier to do bad things with them.

And guns are optimised for killing. I saw an article yesterday by a gun owner and shooter which pointed out that there has been a massive change in shooting over the last 30 years. More treatment of guns as fancy gadgets which are for killing people, more tacticool gubbins, more styling and add ons (Many of which make it worse as a proper fire arm but look good to fools) and advertising designed to appeal to the typical gun nut fantasy.

As for RauldMmiller #6 - you seem to be taking a very abstract stance here. It would be helpful if you linked it to reality a bit.

E.g. Democracy (In many varied forms) is just a little bit different from specific ownership and use of a tool that is often designed to kill people as rapidly as possible. It has certain feedback mechanisms and braking systems (no instant referenda with instant decisions and effects), it relies upon certain equalities before the law. We know from centuries of history that some form of democracy is a good idea for oragnising large numbers of humans.

Guns on the other hand are a lump of metal with a deadly purpose. I note you didn't jump into a more sensible analogy, that of driving a car, a potentially lethal mass of plastic and metal and flammable fuel, for which most countries in the world require you to pass a test and will take your licence off you if you misbehave.

Stina - how much does the economy come into it? I can well believe that the generalised stresses across society from the poor economic performance of the majority (as the rich steal all the profits) leads to greater problems elswhere which leads to more shootings. But then don't a lot of these massacres take place with non-poverty stricken gunmen?

I do think though that the biggest issue is your culture of violence and social atomisation. If you could solve that, there wouldn't be half as many shootings.

17:

Possibly because I am not an American, I find the idea that elementary and high schools, not to mention cinemas, should NOT be gun free zones to be surreal.
Firearms are a tool - used in rural areas in my region for subsistence hunting, eradication of vermin, and so forth. They are not toys, nor are they the basis for a personal arsenal to protect the citzenry against their own government and neighbours. The very idea of the latter strikes me as fundamentally undemocratic. Voting should take place at the ballot booth, not through the barrel of a gun.
We have a police force which handles maintenance of public order. If the citizenry expect to do that themselves, what is the purpose of a police force in the first place?
And finally - automatic weapons, including high powered hand guns are pretty damn close to weapons of mass destruction, compared to the alternatives. I notice that someone attacked a school in China at roughly the same time as the recent incident in the US. He used a knife, injured 20 odd children, but no one was killed. School attacks are increasingly common in China for reasons that probably have economic and social parallels to the US, but without widespread availability of high powered firearms, the death toll is generally much smaller.

18:

if you have a penis, you are at most a bank account and sperm donor for women. The victory of third wave feminism in action.

That's some pretty despicable misogyny.

And 12 comments later no one else has apparently noticed.

19:

An excellent point. I suspect most people, like myself, the schools and cinemas comment and did not read too carefully thereafter.

20:

Sorry about the atrocious grammar, I did not proofread that one. "I suspect that most people, like myself stopped at the schools and cinemas comment and did not read too carefully thereafter."

21:

A. go look at Japan, where guns are utterly verboten. Or the UK, or Australia. All democracies. All roughly as functional as the USA -- each has rough edges, usually in different places, but so does the US.
Or, indeed, Canada, where guns are about as ubiquitous as they are in the USA, but mass shootings are not.

See also: the war on drugs.
Or the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution.

I think what you have a problem with is a culture of violence, not just easy access to weapons.
This may well be correct.

22:

Zakueins: 4)A culture and legal system that is steadily demonstrating that if you have a penis, you are at most a bank account and sperm donor for women. The victory of third wave feminism in action.

Red card.

That means you're banned from this thread.

Repeated displays of such egregious misogyny will result in a permanent ban from commenting on this blog.

Apologies will be considered, and accepted if they appear to be sincere. Attempts at self-justification will result in that permanent global ban happening all the sooner.

(Thanks to supernaut for drawing my attention to it.)

23:

Anyone interested in the economic factors of rage killings could do worse than reading this: http://www.amazon.com/Going-Postal-Rebellion-Workplaces-Columbine/dp/1932360824

Its not exactly watertight, and there's some pretty wild dot connecting in there but it's an interesting take with some good insights.

24:

Heh. I got to the part about blaming "Ken Kesley" (sic) and stopped right there. There aren't enough hours in the day to respond to such massively misinformed missives - and that's assuming there's anything to be gained from the effort.

25:

I skimmed it and missed the content due to being exhausted and inattentive. Zakueins is now one ill-thought follow-up away from a permanent ban.

I probably need to update the moderation policy to add overt misogyny, rape apologias, and Mens' Rights nonsense as grounds for an automatic ban, along with racism and homophobia.

26:

I agree. Firearms are quite common where I live, but seldom used in violence. There are plenty of economic problems, certainly a sense of powerlessness, but it just doesn't seem (so far) to play out in more than pub brawls. The local drug gangs are certainly armed to the teeth, but their violence is usually among themselves. The general population relies on the police force to mediate violence.
However, Stina also has a point regarding the economic context. When combined with a gun owning culture and an engrained belief that violence is a solution to personal problems, a sense of powerlessness in the face of economic decline does seem to lead to outbreaks of violence.
Nor does it seem to require the shooter to be impoverished. A perception that ones future is hopeless can be more important than actually experiencing it. After all, many people are poor and seem to get by without going bonkers. It is those who are well off, and have expected to remain well off, who find the sudden prospect of joining the ranks of the newly impoverished particularly hard.

27:

Charlie, I was wondering if the whole point of that comment was so that Zakueins could say Short version-
1)De-institutionalization of the ... cheap on Kindle
and it is effectively spam. Your blog, your call.

28:

And gun bans only ensure that criminals have guns and people commit mass murders with other weapons.

Trying to come up with an example of a mass murder with a weapon other than guns and drawing a blank.

The same day as the CT shooting, a man attacked a schoolroom full of children in China with a knife. Fatalities: 0.

It's simply harder to kill people en masse with something other than a gun. (Maybe poison, but I can't think of a mass poisoning incident that was intentional and not the result of spoiled food or accidental contamination).

So if we ban guns, people will attempt to commit mass murder with other weapons and fail.

I'm OK with that trade off.

29:

"There is such a LONG list of things going on that you could write a book. I could write a book, but I don't have time these days..."

Violence is definitely one of the themes I tend to work a lot with.

"1)De-institutionalization of the mentally ill. We're talking the seriously fracked-up-in-the-head mentally ill. Crime rates go up massively in the US when a lot of the mentally ill were let out on the streets (I blame Ken Kesley). There's a great book called "My Brother Ron:A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill" that I recommend on this subject."

THIS. DEFINITELY. We were talking about horror earlier? This article illustrates it: http://thebluereview.org/i-am-adam-lanzas-mother/

"It's a tragedy, to be certain. But, it is a failure of people."

I disagree. I feel it's a failure of a system.

"And gun bans only ensure that criminals have guns and people commit mass murders with other weapons."

And that excuse gets used far too much to do nothing about the problem.

30:

Ditto that: "Leave it to Beaver" is something I've heard of but never seen.

Sorry. It was on television in re-run form practically my whole childhood. Mrs. Cleaver has no personality what-so-ever. She barely has lines and they usually consist of "Ask your father, dear." or "Yes, dear." [shudder]

"I have comments about gun violence in the US to deliver, but want to think them through a bit further first."

I suspect you'll have interesting things to say on the subject.

31:

I don't classify it as spam: he didn't post a URL (as might be expected if he was trying to sell copies of the book).

32:

A few words on the "more guns, more safety" thesis:

We've had a couple of recent, very public empirical tests of that idea. One was the victim in the Jovan Belcher murder/suicide, in which the NRA put out a public statement saying that she should have had a gun to protect herself. She had several, as it turns out, and spent a fair amount of time at local shooting ranges. The second, of course, was Adam Lanza's mother and his first victim, killed with one of her own weapons.

If you prefer statistical data to anecdotes, here's a compendium of studies showing that whether you look across cities, U.S. states, or countries, more availability of guns leads to more gun violence.

So, the formal data also says, this idea is wrong. It might be right, but it isn't. It's wrong.

By the way, for the guy upthread who's wondering how guns got easier to acquire in the US over the past ten years: the assault weapons ban expired in 2004.

33:

Not really. Guns are common enough in Canada. But not nearly as ubiquitous as in the US. Also the type of firearms are quite different.
As far as I know fully automatic hand guns are impossible for individuals to own. Also assault rifles, grenade launchers and other items that appear to be available in various jurisdictions in the US.
To get the licence to purchase a revolver or semiautomatic handgun here requires a fairly thorough criminal record check, and provision of 2 references (who are themselves both given criminal records checks and grilled as to the suitability of the candidate to own restricted firearms). The only justification for owning one is sport shooting. (Personal self defence is NOT a valid reason to purchase ANY firearm.) The RCMP then keep a national database entry on both the owner and the weapon.
Unlicensed and illegal firearms do exist, but their ownership is a crime and leads to an automatic prison sentence when found out.
Most firearms are long guns (rifles) used in either sport shooting or hunting (which itself requires a licence, unless one is aboriginal and has a subsistence hunting exemption)

34:

The last spree killer in Japan used a pick-up truck and hit Akihabara when it was busy. When he finally immobilized it he got out, pulled his knife ... and managed one last victim before he was taken down.

However, Aum Shinrikyo managed to kill ten and poison hundreds with nerve gas on the Tokyo subway in 1995. So yes, poison is an option.

35:

I think the situation in the US has gone beyond what any conceivable control measures could make a difference to, there are simply too many weapons in the wild, at this point.
I think there are cultural factors involved, There are other countries with fairly liberal gun laws (Canada springs to mind) that do not seem to have these semi-periodic mass shootings. Perhaps it might avail the powers that be in the US to look to these places and see what they are doing that the US is not.

36:

"And what is the singular characteristic that all these shooters have in common? That they were incompetent."

With twenty-seven killed at that elementary school, I'd say that was very competent. The UT shooter took out less than that. The guy at the theater in Aurora prepared enough to cover himself in body armor and booby trap his apartment--that's pretty competent. Calling people names and discounting the problem doesn't resolve the issue. It doesn't save lives, or heal the wounded. It just makes us feel unjustly superior while we again brush off the problem as if it were nothing. If we were so freaking competent, we wouldn't have the problem.

37:

"I think what you have a problem with is a culture of violence, not just easy access to weapons."

I like that point a lot.

38:

Troll alert: you're playing the game of "If you can't make me say I'm wrong I win."

You've advanced an argument. Charlie has expressed skepticism and given a reason for why he's skeptical.

Please go read my post again. Despite my grammar I was asking for discussion which did not ignore those issues.

Personally: I do not own a gun, the family tradition I grew up in does not own guns, does not join the military, and has a long standing tradition of avoiding violence in all forms. But that also means that I do not draw much of a line between civilian gun ownership, and government position based gun ownership. [And I feel that anyone who thinks that "government authorized" is any kind of solution to any violence related issue is suffering from a seriously flawed viewpoint.]

But, also, the arguments being advanced here are not the sort that I could take into a discussion were someone sincerely felt that gun ownership was a good thing.

That said, if you sincerely need proof that guns are not equivalent to nuclear weapons: you can carry a gun, and fire it, and live.

39:

More like we were not feeding the troll and waiting for someone to scrub his commment. I certainly was.

40:

"A shooting occurs. You carry a gun, so you decide to stop the killer. You approach the scene, and you see 1 armed people, with corpses everywhere. So you shoot. And kill the teacher who just used his amazing sharpshooter skills to kill the mass murderer."

"I mean, even leaving aside the question of friendly fire, how do you know that the gun-carrying guy you've got before you is not a serial killer? Because he's got good looks and/or a white hat, like in the movies?"

Exactly. If people trained for combat make such mistakes in combat situations, what makes anyone thing non-trained for combat individuals could perform better? The whole position is a action movie fantasy.

41:

Most perpetrators of mass shootings (or stabbings in China) are single males who find their traditional social and cultural roles increasingly insecure. In this sense, yes, they are incompetent, or feel themselves incompetent, because they cannot fulfill the roles that they expect to assume in their society. Economic change and decline is one problem, so is cultural and social change that leaves males "traditional" roles outdated, without changing the social and cultural expectations that they assume them.
Males generally have a tendency to act out physically when frustrated, and this is one manifestation of this tendency. Rising levels of domestic violence is another, so is rising levels of public violence.

42:

The second amendment was written to ensure that power, in the real and tangible form of guns, was retained by the people. This puts a final check on the government's powers of oppression, and eliminating that check would decrease one risk while increasing another.

A) The 2nd amendment was written when the state of the art in guns was a muzzle loading flintlock rifle and users had to manufacture their own bullets. The state of the art in weapons today is remote controlled drones capable of delivering laser guided payloads down a chimney. It's utterly laughable that anyone would believe a compound full of gun nuts are a credible threat to a government that can kill them with the push of a button. The fantasy of armed insurrection is one of the more beloved of US right wing shibboleths, but one that is even more unrealistic than Welfare Queens or Going Galt.

B) The purpose of the 2nd Amendment was for the establishment of a well regulated militia. Funny how gun enthusiasts always forget that subordinate clause. At the time, the idea of defending one's country from threats foreign and domestic by running fire drills with your neighbors was another one of those state-of-the-art ideas that has, in the intervening 2.5 centuries, become a laughable anachronism. Hell, it was an anachronism less than 2 decades after the amendment was ratified. By the War of 1812, the US had a standing army, thus nullifying the need for a militia. Later, the state sponsored militias were rolled into the National Guard, which has of course become little more than our Reserve Army.

C) Since the mid 20th century, the preferred method of overthrowing a government is through passive-resistance and non-violent revolution, an idea of which our founding fathers could not have even conceived. Violent revolution is now seen as counterproductive and illegitimate. Anyone in the US advocating for the overthrow of the legitimately elected government through armed insurrection is now and rightfully viewed as a treasonous villain.

The 2nd amendment is not only not-sacrosanct, it's wildly outdated and should be abandoned as a governing principal immediately.

43:

"Stina - how much does the economy come into it? I can well believe that the generalised stresses across society from the poor economic performance of the majority (as the rich steal all the profits) leads to greater problems elswhere which leads to more shootings. But then don't a lot of these massacres take place with non-poverty stricken gunmen?"

I know that with Charles Whitman wasn't doing so well financially when he parked himself in the top of the UT tower with a rifle. Just because someone isn't from a poverty-stricken area or background doesn't mean that their ecomonic situation is stable. There have been a lot of lay-offs and the middle class in America have been heavily affected. The disparity between the rich and the poor hasn't been this drastic in America since the Gilded Age. Maybe I'm misunderstanding your question?

"I do think though that the biggest issue is your culture of violence and social atomisation. If you could solve that, there wouldn't be half as many shootings."

The culture of violence is a big part of it, I agree. Also, the recent fad for Ayn Rand worshiping hasn't helped. I agree.

44:

I'm not aware of any evidence that indicates an uptick of mass murder's in the US since 2000?

In general they happen with depressing regularity. FBI crime stats are around 20 mass murders in the US a year.

"The worst in American history happened in 1927, when a man in Michigan who was enraged by tax increases killed 44 people, including 38 elementary schoolchildren."

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/nation/article/Can-we-do-anything-to-prevent-massacres-4122020.php#ixzz2FFuUkO8M

Though not against stricter gun laws, in general I am a little suspicious of the effectiveness of any solution of preventing violence which primarily hinges on removing the means to do violence.

Humans are relatively fragile, and our ability to manipulate our environment continually grows. We need to figure out a way to remove the desire not the means. Especially once 3D printing arrives, removing guns is going to become pretty close to impossible if it isn't already...

45:

Trying to come up with an example of a mass murder with a weapon other than guns and drawing a blank.

Explosives and poison have both been used. Also large jets, although I suspect we've closed that option off now.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oklahoma_City_bombing
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadamichi_Hirasawa
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarin_gas_attack_on_the_Tokyo_subway

46:

Ooh, too many things that could be said.
I put that Mother Jones link on Facebook last night with the comment:

"For anyone who has said "Well, if I'd been there with my gun, I'd've taken him down."
No you wouldn't have.
Hint: He was already planning on shooting people, You weren't.
He's likely better armed than you, possibly wearing body armor, and so on.
Note, the article is from September."

Then added this link: Tactical Reality
Still waiting for my father's reaction.

Regarding one of the Marines in the Aurora theater, it's believed that he dove to cover his wife, saving her and being shot himself. IIRC both Marines (early reports said one was a SEAL) were on leave, having been in Afghanistan, and were hoping to enjoly an evening with their families, and were not likely to be carrying.

The only time I can think of someone actually stopping a shooter was at New Life Church, but in that case the shooter was stopped by a woman who volunteered as a security guard, so was looking out for anything. Her shots didn't kill him, but prevented more potential casualties. I'd call that a rare exception.
Sidenote: what that Wikipedia article leaves out is that a year or so after being lauded by the church as a hero, they quickly shunned her once she came out of the closet. But that's another story.

Re: note [4]. When I was in 8th grade one kid tried picking a fight while walking alongside me, so I kicked his feet out from under him so that he fell on his ass. When he started to get up I did it again, and walked off. A friend watching at the door said the PE teacher watching from the other side of the gym was laughing his head of. Wish I'd seen that.

Now to catch up on the comments--twice as many as when I started this.

47:

" I got to the part about blaming "Ken Kesley" (sic) and stopped right there. There aren't enough hours in the day to respond to such massively misinformed missives - and that's assuming there's anything to be gained from the effort."

I only intended to respond to the part about the mental health system. The rest of that message didn't make any sense to me. So I ignored it. It's what I've been conditioned to do. It's pretty amazing watching the moderation here. (It's wonderful.) And I should be more careful about the comments I respond to.

48:

I think there are cultural factors involved, There are other countries with fairly liberal gun laws (Canada springs to mind) that do not seem to have these semi-periodic mass shootings. Perhaps it might avail the powers that be in the US to look to these places and see what they are doing that the US is not.

Go back 100 years. Canada had no gun control, and about 10% of the US murder rate.

Even more interesting is to look at the Klondike Gold Rush. American prospectors who were violent in Skagway were law-abiding in the Yukon — and it wasn't because they were outgunned by the Mounties, either.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1QPKc_8mpE

So yes, it appears to be cultural.

49:

That said, if you sincerely need proof that guns are not equivalent to nuclear weapons: you can carry a gun, and fire it, and live.

Straw man argument.

Supporting evidence: Colonel Paul Tibbets and the crew of the Enola Gay. And to back it up: the crew of Bock's Car, as well.

You seem to be working on the assumption that governments are all Hobbesian Leviathans that can only be held in check by an armed citizenry who are willing to overthrow them by force of arms. And that even democracies need this backstop -- even though the major advantage of democracy over other systems of government is that it provides a mechanism for the peaceful transfer of power between rival factions.

I believe that the justification for an armed polity that you are providing is inimical to democratic values; it promotes confrontation by arms rather than peaceful settlement of differences.

And I should note that the second amendment to the US constitution was accepted in late 1791, at a time when there were not actually any functioning democracies, in the modern sense: nobody knew how to do it properly, and the models they were working from (their own revolutionary war, the early reports from the French revolution, and the British Civil Wars of the 17th century) were sketchy and delivered, at best, a mild (by the standards of the age) military dictatorship.

50:

There is no doubt democracy needs a backstop, however I am somewhat skeptical that an armed but completely untrained citizenry serves that function effectively any more.

I wonder if an effective backstop could be designed? Maybe an actual, mandatory militia, government ran, with the weaponry safely locked away. Something closer to what the founding fathers intended...

51:

Ubiquitous internet monitoring and the signal lack of success of suicidal salafist idiots in the past decade would suggest that it takes more than access to guns and explosives to engineer a revolution. See also: Timothy McVeigh, Anders Breivik.

52:
"1)De-institutionalization of the mentally ill. We're talking the seriously fracked-up-in-the-head mentally ill. Crime rates go up massively in the US when a lot of the mentally ill were let out on the streets (I blame Ken Kesley). There's a great book called "My Brother Ron:A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill" that I recommend on this subject."

THIS. DEFINITELY. We were talking about horror earlier? This article illustrates it: http://thebluereview.org/i-am-adam-lanzas-mother/

Actually - no. Really no.

While the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill has caused massive problems - for society and the mentally ill[1] - violence isn't one of them.

People with mental illness are no more likely to commit violence than anybody else. Seriously. Research has proved this again and again.

See http://psychcentral.com/archives/violence.htm for example.

When people with mental illness are violent it's usually for the same reason everybody else is. It's usually aimed at family when it does occur - not the world in general.

The story that gets portrayed in the media of mentally ill people being a major danger to the general public is just that - a story. The facts don't back it up.

And those with mental illness have to deal with the bigotry and prejudice that results from this story. Including some of my friends and loved ones.

Don't get me wrong. Care for the mentally ill in the US (and the UK to some extent) is f**king awful in many ways. People with mental illnesses regularly don't get good support - and neither do their friends and loved ones. But a danger to the general public through violence. No.

To pick an analogy - in the 70s when I was growing up in the newspapers it was always "a black man did ". White guy - race never mentioned. These days you get the same sort of coverage for people with mental illnesses.

Or, indeed, the assumption that any atrocity must have been done by somebody with a mental illness. (e.g. as far as I am aware there is no actual evidence that Adam Lanzas had a mental illness. Just supposition and media-interpreted statements from people who knew the family. Since the police are using words like "motive" I suspect that we've not heard the full story yet.)

Sorry... hot button topic for me.


[1] Even here it's mostly not deinstitutionalization that's the problem. It's due to there not being any active support and funding for treatment outside of the institution.

53:

oh absolutely, just read your Mao if you want to know what it takes to engineer a revolution. Guns is a small part of it

Personally I'm much more worried about subversion from within then anything else. Money has a lot more power in our current democracies then I am comfortable with...


54:

Why are you [and Americans in general] so hung up on what the Founding Fathers intended?

It's ... I dunno. It's hard for me to imagine a Brit being hung up on how society might or might not conform with Lord Grey's intentions in the Great Reform Act. Or worrying about the nation deviating from the precise intention of the drafters of the National Health Service Act (1946).

Yes, I get that your constitution is a basic framework for running a country. But it's not unique; most countries have constitutions. (Even the UK does, it's just self-modifying code that comes in the shape of 31-or-so separate modules, er, Acts of Parliament, that define how the legislative system works and how changes to the system -- metaprogramming -- can be carried out.)

55:

We need to figure out a way to remove the desire not the means.

So until we can find a way to remove the desire, doesn't it make sense to limit the means? Yes, we'll still have frustrated individuals seeking outlets for their rage, but at least we'll have less of a body count.

56:

"If you prefer statistical data to anecdotes, here's a compendium of studies showing that whether you look across cities, U.S. states, or countries, more availability of guns leads to more gun violence."

Thanks for that link. :)

57:

I'm not especially hung up on what the founding fathers intended, however if someone is going to make a 2nd amendment argument it is worth discussing what that framework was intended to support.

The UK constitution was primarily a pragmatic evolution from monarchy to democracy, there was not any one set of architects, so no one to really consult on intentions. The US government on the other hand was a big bang, big idea movement so no wonder the intentions of the architects of it engender a lot of questions.

The mistrust of government was certainly built into the US mindset from the very beginning, which is in my mind a good thing that sometimes spins off in bad, strange ways. It's always kind of amazed me how anyone can do anything BUT mistrust people in power...

58:

"I think the situation in the US has gone beyond what any conceivable control measures could make a difference to, there are simply too many weapons in the wild, at this point."

Restricting the specific ammunition is always an option.

59:

A shooting occurs. You carry a gun, so you decide to stop the killer. You approach the scene, and you see 1 armed people, with corpses everywhere. So you shoot. And kill the teacher who just used his amazing sharpshooter skills to kill the mass murderer.

This exact scenario very nearly occurred in the Gabby Giffords shooting, when a bystander named Joe Zamudio rushed into the scene, weapon in hand, safety off, and very nearly shot a guy who had wrestled the gun away from the real shooter,

And with that in mind, it's not obvious to me that if the teachers in Newtown had mounted an armed response, the school wouldn't have turned into a free-fire zone with an even higher body count. Consider the recent Manhattan incident in which cops tried to take down a gunman, one Jeffrey Johnson. Once the bullets started flying, stray shots hit nine bystanders --- and every single one of those stray shots turned out to have come from a cop's gun. That's what trained cops wind up doing. I wouldn't expect better from amateurs.

60:

Seems, to me at least, that one thing that links the shooters is that, for whatever reason, they are suicidal, but unwilling to do it themselves. Then they somehow come to the decision to 'take out' as many other people as they can, partly because they feel they have nothing to lose, and to force the police to shoot them.

61:

kedwards.author It makes sense to limit the means. It just probably won't work very well at all, so best not to stop there. For some reason, Americans are kill-happy, which is in general probably a bad thing for the world. Guns are just a symptom.

62:

Stina / note[2] NOT helped by supposed “moderators” who delete comments which are/were carefully measured, because a subsequent commentor has violent vapour/rant over it. Akin to blaming Rushdie for stirring up the nutters, in my opinion.
NOT your fault.

Arming
The Swiss have as many guns per head as the US (approx) & their murder rate? Errr …
Also the USSA’s constitutional right to bear arms, refers to militias (civil guards’ equivalent) NOT private citizens, as such … but it’s been twisted.
But then, I’m in England, so what do I know?
See also Charlie @ 10 – “you have a problem with a culture of violence”

Charlie @ 25
Careful about “racism” banning, since far too many people use it as a catch-all “I don’t like your argument, can’t fight it, so I’m going to call you racist” trope.
I’ve had this elsewhere, where my atheism made me come down on a particular aspect of islam (it’s misogyny, specifically) which promptly got me called an evil racist ….

@ 28
I can't think of a mass poisoning incident that was intentional err.
Aum shinrikyo (spelling?) Tokyo Subway ?? Ah, Charlie @ 34, thanks!

Charlie @ 47
“Hobbseian Leviathans” … fascinating.
I’ve just started reading Taleb’s “Black Swan” & his comments seem pertinent to that remark – including that in the 19thC the Libertarians were all liberals, and the jews were protected by the muslims (in Lebanon, whilst the christains were almost all anti-semites.
Very confusing, as, of course, he meant it to be, to engage our interests.


63:

Forgot about Aum Shinrikyo. Still, poison and fatal knife attacks are rare and a lot harder to accomplish. Guns, and the ease of access to them here in the US, make shooting sprees easier, and therefore more common.

64:

Ubiquitous internet monitoring and the signal lack of success of suicidal salafist idiots in the past decade would suggest that it takes more than access to guns and explosives to engineer a revolution.

It's not just that guns aren't sufficient --- they aren't necessary, either. The people of Tunisia started off the Arab Spring by kicking out their dictator of twenty-odd years. That country has one of the lowest rates of private gun ownership on the planet (178th out of 179 in a 2007 survey).

65:

Wasn't suggesting we stop merely at banning guns. It's certainly not a catch-all for the problem, but coupled with counseling and economic incentives (cash for guns programs have worked well in a lot of cities) we can limit the number of incidents in the short term and then start to slowly work at that culture-of-violence issue in the long term.

66:

Arming
The Swiss have as many guns per head as the US (approx) & their murder rate? Errr …

The Swiss militia all hold assault rifles true, but they're not allowed to keep ammunition for them at home. Source being actual Swiss people.

Also the USSA’s constitutional right to bear arms, refers to militias (civil guards’ equivalent) NOT private citizens, as such … but it’s been twisted.
2nd Amendment, as ratified - "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." How does this impose any requirement for firearm owners to be trained, never mind members of a state militia?

67:

Greg, the Swiss now have ammunition separate from guns, helping reduce murders and suicides even further.


Stina #42 - I think the point I was trying to make was answered better by whoever it was commented about people not making whatever grade it was that was expected of them. In an increasingly winner take all or rather Deil tak the hindmaist society, people who are a bit unstable and have expectations but then fail to meet the expectations would be more likely to do bad things, which these days seems to include killing lots of people. So you can try and make your society more gentle as well as tolerant of failure, and make it so that people are more resilient in general, as well as somehow change things so that people just don't feel the need to kill lots of other people.

68:

For paws4thought and others, taken from Making light:

A long legal article on the right to bear arms and some of the evolution of the text regarding it. The context is very definitely that of the military:
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1995/sep/21/to-keep-and-bear-arms/?pagination=false

Secondly, a long time gun user laments the changes in the culture in the last 30 years:
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2012/12/tactical_reality.php

69:

I would have thought your back-up for democracy was not having a heavily militarised state. Have a teensy-weesy professional army, locally recruited militia (week-end soldiers) and a decentralised and unarmed police force.

Yes, I do know we do have in the UK armed police for specific operations and functions. I worry about them. They seem apt to commit errors, getting worked up and blasting away. Then there's the opportunity afforded to officers for self-harm.

70:

Adrian, thanks for that catch. I misunderstood what I was reading, and well, screwed up massively with that comment. I'm very sorry.

The US system for dealing with mental health is very badly broken. I know this because I too have family members with some serious mental health issues. And you are correct. Most of the time danger doesn't come into it. You're also correct that the majority suffers because those with mental health problems are painted with one brush. I don't want to go into more personal aspects of this. However, there are cases when the situation is a dangerous one, and I do not like that there are no options when this is the case. Therefore, due to my experience, I see the broken mental health system as part of the violence problem.

71:

"Why are you [and Americans in general] so hung up on what the Founding Fathers intended?"

I love that question. Personally, I have no earthly idea.

72:

See that and raise actual Supreme Court judgements as cites:-
"In 2008 and 2010, the Supreme Court issued two Second Amendment decisions. In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. In dicta, the Court listed many longstanding prohibitions and restrictions on firearms possession as being consistent with the Second Amendment. In McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment limits state and local governments to the same extent that it limits the federal government."

73:

But that's just activist judges.

74:

I'm not very knowledgeable about the actual USA all I really know is from the media and the media's comment on the media, but to me from observing media is that nobody is listening to each other when there is a discussion.
There is a point made by person 1. A counter argument is made by person 2. person 1 ignores the argument. person 2 starts to make a more forceful argument person 1 starts shouting and so those person 2 and it has started in a contest of who can shout the loudest.
Now this is media and not real life, but has this behavior infested daily life then one can argue that the loudest form of shouting is that coming from a handgun.

75:

You seem to be working on the assumption that governments are all Hobbesian Leviathans that can only be held in check by an armed citizenry who are willing to overthrow them by force of arms. And that even democracies need this backstop -- even though the major advantage of democracy over other systems of government is that it provides a mechanism for the peaceful transfer of power between rival factions.

Have you seen our electoral system? Although I sincerely hope we can fix it, it might not be wise to put all our eggs in that basket.

76:

Only skimmed your first link (and had already shared the second).
The interpretation of the reasoning behind the 2nd Amendment that I stick with is that it was intended to prevent the US from having a large, permanent Army that could be used against its own citizens, as George III was doing in the colonies. And pointing out that it doesn't use the words Civilian or Own, also that they never imagined assault rifles.

Of course, what was intended, and how it's been interpreted are totally separate.

77:

"Trying to come up with an example of a mass murder with a weapon other than guns and drawing a blank."

Actually, a decent katana wielded by a fit someone who knows how to use it in a crowded area could probably achieve a comparable bodycount. Almost every cut would be fatal. However, there are very few such people around and none (so far) who are crazy enough to do it. Guns are *much* easier.

78:

They caused 6000 casualties.

79:

excuse my spelling I need to go to bed.

I'm not very knowledgeable about the actual USA all I really know is from the media and the media's comment on the media, but to me from observing media is that nobody is listening to each other when there is a discussion.
There is a point made by person 1. A counter argument is made by person 2. person 1 ignores the argument. person 2 starts to make a more forceful argument person 1 starts shouting and so does person 2 and it has started in a contest of who can shout the loudest.
Now this is media and not real life, but has this behavior infested daily life then one can argue that the loudest form of shouting is that coming from a handgun.

80:

I suspect that what we are seeing is somewhat akin to what happens to technologically primitive societies when they meet the modern world. When they fall apart it is the men that bear the brunt of the psychological impact. Women still have to look after the children and so they continue to do what they have always done. The men, OTOH, fall into a nihilistic despair where alcohol and drugs take a huge toll.

The difference now is that we are seeing this internally. A bit like Toffler's Future Shock.

81:

The largest mass killing on US soil by non-state actors that I know of was the Al-Queda attack on 11th September 2001. No firearms were involved in the killing of about 3000 people in that case.

Similarly the Oklahoma City bomb killed about 160 people as I recall, including a large number of children. Before that the record for murder in a single incident was held by an arsonist who set fire to a nightclub, killing about 130 people.

In the UK such records are held by people like the 7/7 London bombers or the IRA splinter group that carried out the Inniskillen bombing. The Provisional IRA were proud to claim the lethal Chelsea barracks bomb among others but they tended to shy away from admitting to the torture and murder of individuals in Northern Ireland when indeed firearms were involved.

We've had our spree killers in the UK using firearms too; Dunblane and Hungerford and more recently Cumbria in 2010 (12 dead, 11 wounded). The numbers, though shocking are tiny compared to the deaths due to bombings and arson (a current case going through the courts involved the deaths of six children in a house fire in Derby that has been declared arson).

82:

Nuts, I forgot to work out an appropriate smiley/ exclamation marks. Nevertheless, I think the concept is a bit relevant.

(I am not a lawyer, american or suchlike)

84:
Adrian, thanks for that catch. I misunderstood what I was reading, and well, screwed up massively with that comment. I'm very sorry.

No problem. Apologies if I came over extra ranty ;-)

However, there are cases when the situation is a dangerous one, and I do not like that there are no options when this is the case. Therefore, due to my experience, I see the broken mental health system as part of the violence problem.

Don't get me wrong. There are a very small number of people that are dangerous. In some situations and contexts. Dealing with that is horrible and scary and generally produces soul soul-destroying levels of awful for everybody involved.

I spent several hours talking somebody with a knife who was having a psychotic break down from the edge. It's not an experience I relish or ever want to repeat.

But I don't buy it as having any detectable effect in the general levels of societal violence. And there's a stack of research to back that up.

85:

True: I used to think that a sufficient ruthless dictator surrounded by equally ruthless henchmen willing to kill enough people could not be taken down by internal opposition. Syria is giving me reason to rethink that position.
Still the notion that a mob of armed and angry citizen could face down the US military and police forces effectively (who for some magical reason, as going to support this tyranny) is so bonkers that wonder does anyone really take it seriously.

86:

Well, if you count half hearted, drunk, suicidal and probably not trained in the use of a sword (and I have my doubts that it was a "real" katana)

87:

well you got to remember, that is how the country got started. Seemed pretty insane to the British at the time as well as I recall...

The Slaveholders Treasonous Revolt also gave the Feds a good run for the money

It actually made some sense up until WWII or so, at that time the State militia's (National Guard) were relatively independent and could have given the federal army a run for the money

In modern US...not so much

88:

Dunno, not sure how standard cartridge sizes are, I used to know this stuff (old wargammer not very active nowadays) but if one is allowed a firearm it is reasonable to assume one is allowed buy ammo.
The thing is ammo is just as portable as drugs, not sure that restricting the ammo would work all that well. Making ammo purchases more traceable and large scale data mining to spot unusual purchase patterns might help.

89:

With twenty-seven killed at that elementary school, I'd say that was very competent.


I didn't say people weren't competent at digging holes with whatever their implement of choice. But it's considered conventional wisdom that if you find yourself in a hole the first thing you need to do is stop digging.


The UT shooter took out less than that. The guy at the theater in Aurora prepared enough to cover himself in body armor and booby trap his apartment--that's pretty competent. Calling people names and discounting the problem doesn't resolve the issue. It doesn't save lives, or heal the wounded.


Apologies for not making myself clear. I'm not saying these people are incompetent. I'm saying that large numbers of people have seen their economic and social status fall and they tend to blame the wrong actors for this decline. Not surprising; there's rather a large amount of apparatus employed to encourage them to think this.

Now, it's easy to say that the elite's propaganda machine is really, really good and that's why so many succumb. But this is a severe denial of agency, imho. The fact of the matter is that a high percentage of the population is already predisposed to uncritically accept the message being broadcast.

Think about it: For every modestly successful "Erin Brockovich" there's twenty or a hundred wildly successful "Die Hards". The sort of brainless shoot-'em-ups where lines like "Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho." are taken as messages of empowerment. Sigh. That's the sort of incompetency I was talking about.

90:

Loss of status as major factor?

91:

Please go read my post again. Despite my grammar I was asking for discussion which did not ignore those issues.


Bullshit. The sort of standard bullshit I've heard from way too many libertarians by now. Yeah, yeah you're just asking for 'honest discussion', then you throw out an unsupported assertion that's rightly challenged, then you claim that you're 'not convinced' as if it was the other guy selling something and it's up to him to close the deal. Uh-uh pal. Not going to happen. You made the original assertion, so you defend it. That's if your really interested in having this so-called 'honest discussion' and you're not just engaging in some pointless trollery. And as the following shows, you really are just trolling:


But, also, the arguments being advanced here are not the sort that I could take into a discussion were someone sincerely felt that gun ownership was a good thing.


Boy, the bad faith just shines through don't it? And finally:


That said, if you sincerely need proof that guns are not equivalent to nuclear weapons: you can carry a gun, and fire it, and live.


Riiiight. The bomb runs that dropped two nukes on Japan were suicide missions. This isn't recorded in the history books because the Statists just want to take your guns. Now if you're sincere, I'd strongly suggest that you admit that you are coming across as a troll, apologize for it, and start over. At least, that's what I would do if someone genuinely thought they caught the stench of bad faith wafting off of me.

92:

Yes, katana (and serin gas as mentioned by Charlie earlier) are quite lethal when properly used but really, these are hypothetical and/or outliers.

The Aum Shinrikyo attack was nearly 2 decades ago and has not been reproduced, and neither was it the work of one person. While it does meet the criteria of mass murder by poison, it was by today's standards a terrorist attack, not the work of a lone mass poisoner.

Also, the likelihood of berserk Samurai kicking up a fuss in suburban Connecticut is, shall we say, equally unlikely.

The reason is because mass murder by any other weapon is exponentially and fundamentally more difficult, requiring specialized weapons or skills with years of training to master.

So my original point stands -- baring the intervention of a highly financed doomsday cult or wandering ronin -- mass murder with anything but a gun in the US is highly unlikely. Therefore, limiting access to guns in the US would reduce the numbers of mass murder significantly. (Black Swans not withstanding).

93:

@52:
Why are you [and Americans in general] so hung up on what the Founding Fathers intended?
---
The United States didn't evolve ad hoc like Britain. It was a *created* state, with its control document ratified in 1788. The intent was to avoid both "divine right of kings" and mob rule.

Besides the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, documents written by the various founders are considered relevant and used to guide interpretation of Constitutional law.

The Constitution is the governing law of the land. So the intent of the founders affects quite a bit of stuff...


94:

What are your thoughts on the school attacks in China (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_attacks_in_China_(2010–2011)), the Bath school bombing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bath_School_disaster) and their implications for your suggestion of increased gun control? Also, isn't legislation in the wake of a tragedy apt to yield the sort of well-intentioned but poorly thought-out policy that gave us the TSA?

95:

Well, first off (to the non-Americans) don't lump all us Americans together, we're a vaired bunch--needless to say, though I just did.

Despite what Thomas Jefferson said about how every generation should tear up the Consitiution and rewrite it, that would probably be a really Bad Idea™. I'm sure we all realize that if that were to happen now, it would end up as a mess of special interest legislation (more than it already is), and would be far inferior than it is. Just how many committees would be involved? If there was some way of modernizing it, past its 18th century assumptions, that might be worth doing. But I have no idea how that could be done. And as long as we have Supreme Court justices like Scalia, a so-called Originalist, who thinks he knows what was intended by the Framers, then there's not much hope for change.

96:

Nobody had an answer for this issue, which I think it's more interesting: "And, in the context of the states, there's another issue, having to do with history. (What does gun control mean, when your population is already armed -- and while perhaps "most people" do not own weapons, a significant fraction of the population does.) To make gun control work you would have to (a) confiscate millions of guns, and (b) deal with all the people who are capable of making new guns and who feel entitled to do so."

The Genie is already out of the bottle, how do you put it back in? I just don't see it happening. I think someone already demonstrated important part of a gun can be 3D printed, and it's going to get easier and easier to do this. So maybe we should not worry about gun control in the US but how the other gun controlled countries will deal with a situation where a gun can be easily manufactured by individuals.

And to continue this line of thought, gun is small worries when comparing to other tools of violence that may end up in the hand of individuals in the future, for example bio weapons cooked up in home labs, how does the society handle a situation where everyone can build WMD in his/her garage?

97:

rauldmiller @ 6

First, if you cannot trust people with guns, can you really trust them with a government? The whole principle of democracy is that your population is intelligent enough to govern themselves.

I don't even know where to START with that. Perhaps I should start by pointing out I'm Australian, and I've lived in a country (and state) which has had strict gun control laws for most of my life. I've also voted in every state and federal election that's been held since I turned eighteen. Why the hell does "intelligent enough to govern themselves" automatically have to mean "needs to be able to access guns" anyway? I thought the point of democracy was we were big enough and wise enough to govern in a way that means armed insurrections aren't a necessary part of the process of changing government.

Clearly we Aussies are Doing It Rong. Nice to know.

On the other hand, we don't seem to be having the same frequency of mass murders that the USA does (one in 1996, nothing since). I think I can live with that.

98:

As for why the (white, older, male) Republican Second Amendment, um, fanatics are so fanatical, I'd like to suggest an unpleasant possibility:

1. The "Arm America" contingent are mostly white and male, and the next generation is much less so.

2. The US Military is about twice as black as the US mainstream population (note that this is 22% to 12%, so we're not talking about majority African-American) (Source: Defense Department Report. For spin, see this piece by the Heritage Foundation).

3. The US has the largest military in the world by far.

Now, if you're one of those who are prey to fears of poor black and tan people breaking into your home and taking all the precious stuff you can no longer afford to replace, you'd be even more scared if they had military training. Holy screaming bogeymen, Colin Powell! In truth, the US military has long been a career choice for both the poor and immigrants, so regardless of what the numbers really say, someone who's already afraid of a multicultural society has even more reason to be afraid of an integrated military where people who aren't like you have command of the biggest guns in the world. Colin Powell and Eric Shinseki may have made the black helicopter spotters really uneasy.

Personally, I don't think a multicultural military is an any bigger threat than the WWII sailors who instigated the Zoot Suit Riots, or the FBI under Hoover, but then again, I'm just a clueless liberal who doesn't see these particular bogeymen very well. After all, this is just an out-there hypothesis about why some Americans are so afraid of the government that they want to be armed, just in case.

99:

@6 "First, if you cannot trust people with guns, can you really trust them with a government? The whole principle of democracy is that your population is intelligent enough to govern themselves."

As individuals most of us can govern ourselves, and through our system we are muddling through governing the group together. But there are outliers, individuals among us who are mentally off the rails.
Do we deny the vote to everyone just because some of them voted for W?

I gather the right to bear arms came from Magna Carta era reasoning when serfs weren't allowed to bear arms (possess weapons) while the free (meaning practically nobles at that time) were armed. So enshrining the right to bear arms, the framers (the people who wrote the constitution) protected a special interest group who identified being free with being armed as opposed to people who were not free and whose uprisings they were very afraid of. Also the indigenous peoples (indians).

That being said, they also wrote the second amendment as they did so there was all kind of Wiggle Room (great name for a night club). It could be interpreted that "the militia" was the armed populace of the state, ie everybody with a gun, whom the state could regulate. Also, keep and bear says nothing about sell and manufacture.


@ 26 "Nor does it seem to require the shooter to be impoverished."
The 20 year old guy in Newtown certainly wasn't impoverished, unless it was because mommy didn't give him enough allowance. If he'de been kicked out, maybe he would have been focused on real world problem solving like where to get warm and how to get some food instead of whatever indulgent trip he was on. And in the wild he would have had a harder time finding a gun, and if he had he would have probably used it to rob a liquor store or something else practical instead of saving as many innocents as possible from the Mayan apocalypse or whatever he thought he was doing. Not that people truly out of touch with reality shouldn't be institutionalized, but this guy supposedly just had Aspergers. He needed to get a job. Oh, maybe the economic angle is right after all. I win.

@35 "there are simply too many weapons in the wild, at this point. "

Mostly in the hands of conservatives, so let's not have a civil war.

@94 "The Genie is already out of the bottle"

So gun control (alone at least) won't work. There are guns out there, and there are lunatics out there, and lunatics intent on mass murder will look for the softest target rich environment: concentrations of people in low security areas. What we have is a security problem. These shooters stop because somebody stops them. The one in Newtown stopped and shot himself because he heard the police coming. I'm not saying all the teachers should have been armed, but perhaps there should have been a security guard or one of the school principals should have been trained and armed in that regard as an additional duty. What did we do after 9-11? Started talking about arming airline pilots and actually started putting air marshals on planes. A really mean way to produce a result of better security would be to allow victims to sue the school or movie theater for not having adequate security. Probably not appropriate though. Maybe laws requiring some kind of security guard for concentrations of a certain size.

That said, yes we have a cultural problem with violence. It's a cheap way to put drama and and powerwish fullfillment into art or "media content" (movies, games, books). We have a taste problem. There should be laws. But seriously, what's the solution? Ban violent media content? Have mandatory school courses that put it in context?

100:

Stina @#11 The Aurora shooter did have a ballistic helmet and bullet-resistant leggings, but his load-bearing vest was not bullet proof in any way, shape or form. Nobody inside the theater was armed, as the theater owners banned all firearms, as is their right. So someone who was armed could have taken him down with some luck. FYI, members of the military do not commonly carry weapons when off-duty or off-base. Some may as a personal choice, but mostly not, so check your assumptions.

BtW, I lived in Aurora when that happened and frequently patronized that theater. I lived a block north of the shooter and had my power cut while the cops were defusing all those booby traps in his apartment. Very happy that I didn't want to pay full price to see that midnight showing.

Armed bystanders have stopped some massacres. To quote Eugene Volokh at http://www.volokh.com/2012/12/14/do-civilians-armed-with-guns-ever-capture-kill-or-otherwise-stop-mass-shooters/

1. In Pearl, Mississippi in 1997, 16-year-old Luke Woodham stabbed and bludgeoned to death his mother at home, then killed two students and injured seven at his high school. As he was leaving the school, he was stopped by Assistant Principal Joel Myrick, who had gone out to get a handgun from his car. I have seen sources that state that Woodham was on the way to Pearl Junior High School to continue shooting, though I couldn’t find any contemporaneous news articles that so state.

2. In Edinboro, Pennsylvania in 1996, 14-year-old Andrew Wurst shot and killed a teacher at a school dance, and shot and injured several other students. He had just left the dance hall, carrying his gun — possibly to attack more people, though the stories that I’ve seen are unclear — when he was confronted by the dance hall owner James Strand, who lived next door and kept a shotgun at home. It’s not clear whether Wurst was planning to kill others, would have gotten into a gun battle with the police, or would have otherwise killed more people had Strand not stopped him.

3. In Winnemucca, Nevada in 2008, Ernesto Villagomez killed two people and wounded two others in a bar filled with three hundred people. He was then shot and killed by a patron who was carrying a gun (and had a concealed carry license). It’s not clear whether Villagomez would have killed more people; the killings were apparently the result of a family feud, and I could see no information on whether Villagomez had more names on his list, nor could one tell whether he would have killed more people in trying to evade capture.

4. In Colorado Springs in 2007, Matthew Murray killed four people at a church. He was then shot several times by Jeanne Assam, a church member, volunteer security guard, and former police officer (she had been dismissed by a police department 10 years before, and to my knowledge hadn’t worked as a police officer since). Murray, knocked down and badly wounded, killed himself; it is again not clear whether he would have killed more people had he not been wounded, but my guess is that he would have.

101:

I am glad you specifically mention the economic issues. That has always been my core complaint with gun violence in the US. I am not opposed to tightening the rules on acquiring guns. It would have little impact on sportsmen outside of maybe a higher registration fee.

But, I my complaint is that this is managing the symptom and not the cause. More needs to be done to keep people from thinking mass shootings are the only option. Whether that be mental health access, a job, a friend, etc, we need to focus on fixing the core problem.

Without fixing that core problem, you could ban guns and you would still have violence. Desperate people would resort to knives, IEDs, etc. So yes, pass gun laws, but don't forget to spend some time fixing the cause of the violence.

102:

"1. The "Arm America" contingent are mostly white and male, and the next generation is much less so.

2. The US Military is about twice as black as the US mainstream population (note that this is 22% to 12%, so we're not talking about majority African-American) (Source: Defense Department Report. For spin, see this piece by the Heritage Foundation).

3. The US has the largest military in the world by far."

[and fruther concise explanations of the above followed]

Bingo!

In three points you've managed to answer Stina Leicht's question on economic issues and factor in social issues and bring in psychological issues on top of it.

I don't always always agree with you and sometimes I find your tone utterly grating and not conducive to calm arguments, but this time I have to throw flowers and cigars and whatever on the stage and applaud.

Thanks!

P.S.: To all those (other people than heteromeles) who think that Canada "has about the same proportion of firearms as the US" and/or "has quite lax firearms laws" while having at the same time a much lower rate of firearms violence and violence in general, well I can say that as a citizen of Canada I am quite flattered.

However this is all wrong. Yes, we have less violence in general and way less firearms-related violence. But no, we don't have a lot of firearms. Some provinces have regions with a high proportion of simple hunting rifles, but not as much as the US. Some provinces have less strict controls over hunting rifles, but again those laws are way more strict than in the US. And all of our provinces have pistol laws that are incredibly more strict than those in the US.

So, we have lower rates of firearms violence and lower rates of violence in general because we decided as distinct provincial societies to make real, different (Ontario and Quebec, the two provinces with the bulk of the population have radically different attitudes towards this than the thinly populated prairie provinces) and useful laws to regulate firearms. We do not have much better economic conditions or less better economics conditions than in the US. In the case of our country economics has very little to do with this discussion.

Yes, we have had massacres like in 1989 where an "anti-feminist" went to an engineering faculty and shot dead 14 engineering students, all female. He blamed all his personal failings on "feminists".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89cole_Polytechnique_massacre

But this unusual, infrequent type of massacre represented a drop in the bucket in terms of numbers of women murdered by their husbands or lovers in domestic squabbles in Canada.

And how is it in the US?

In the end when I look at the numbers in the US I see these huge numbers and huge proportions of women being murdered by their husbands or lovers in domestic squabbles. And sometimes a husband/lover gets shot dead by the spouse instead. And sometimes other members of the family are involved and get shot dead.

The rate for these relatively accidental ("The gun went off when I thought I wasn't aiming at her" or "I just wanted to get him to leave the house")domestic homicides is far much worse in the US than in Canada or other industrialized countries. The sheer number of "self-protection" pistols just lying around in the US is what makes these squabbles so lethal.

And, to answer Stina Leicht's question about economics: Relatively poorer families in the US are more likely to produce those huge numbers of domestic squabble shootings because they are less likely to have the habit of resorting to lawyers for resolving disputes. Very poor families will survive most domestic squabbles because they don't have the means to buy pistols and ammo from reliable (not necessarily legal) sources.

I see all these numbers go by my desk because for the last ten years I've been working with epidemiologists, professional mathematicians. Sometimes they do studies on homicides, and non-homicidal firearms-related deaths as if they were diseases. They point to all kinds of economic indicators but they also make historical factors stand out.

103:

The US is hung up on the Founding Fathers for a few reasons. Most commonly they are simply mythologized as faultless figures.

But, the key reason is in competing legal theories on how to interpret the Constitution: Originalism and Living Document. Originalism is a strict interpretation based on the original intent of the Found Fathers. It renders the Constitution a static unchanging document stuck in time, thus the fascination with the Founding Fathers. So when they wrote "men" did they mean mankind or simply white men with land.

Living Document is basically the opposite, that the language is flexible and the modern world should be taken into account when interpreting the text.

104:

Fully automatic handguns are fairly difficult to acquire legally in the US, and only 2 legally owned full auto weapons have been used in crimes since 1934. One of those was by a police officer.

105:

That multicultural military is under the command of whoever controls the government. If somebody figures out how to hack electronic voting machines and take over, that's who they work for. Your "personal weapon" is the one locked up under the control of the commander to be issued for deployment or training.

It gave me the willies when I worked for W (quite a few rungs down) and realized there might be more than one reason why we were practicing at the control of insurgent populations. Preventing election rip offs is an excellent form of gun control.

106:

A similar sentiment was expressed bu Leslie Charteris, through his character Simon Templar, in one of the pre-war Saint books. "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent." The Saint of those terms was not averse to a judicious biffing of the ungodly.

So I take Charteris to be saying that sometimes a little violence now is better than avoiding it until there is no choice. Which fits with the European politics of the time, particularly the rise of Hitler.

Asimov's expression suggests to me something more of a mental state: somebody who doesn't have any other answers. If Chamberlain was an example of the last resort, it was for Hitler that violence was the refuge. He was using it as a political tool throughout his career.

107:

Paws @ 64
The USSA’a actual constitution says, from your own quote: “A well regulated militia being necessary…” how does that, then invalidate my argument, as you seem to think it does?
Guthrie – take your point about Swiss “separation”, but even before then, what was their kill-rate compared to the US’?
Similarly @ 100
Canada has a lot of guns – Rifles, not handguns, & they tend not to be fully-automatic. It makes a difference, as does the culture.

Generally
Economic model as an “excuse” for mass-murder will not wash. Not buying that one, at all. See comparable murder-rates in US & other countries, for a start?

@ 90
mass murder with anything but a gun in the US is highly unlikely….
Err … Oklahoma bomber, as previously mentioned?
But then, explosives are also easy to obtain in the US, aren’t they?

R D South @ 103
Your argument fails for reasons given a long way up, @ 62 --- Tunisia.

108:

Wealth distribution in the US and Canada is very different as measured by the Gini Index. Canada is far more "equal", on a par with W Europe.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gini_coefficient

109:

Update ... from today's "Torygraph":
Nancy Lanza, whose gun collection was raided by her son Adam for Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook school, was part of the “prepper” movement, which urges readiness for social chaos by hoarding supplies and training with weapons.

“She prepared for the worst,” her sister-in-law Marsha Lanza told reporters. “Last time we visited her in person, we talked about prepping – are you ready for what could happen down the line, when the economy collapses?"
Police disclosed that the 52-year-old had five legally registered guns – at least three of which her 20-year-old son carried with him.


So, they were all loopy together?

110:

It seems to me that neither of those examples supports the argument you're presumably trying to make. The death toll from the China school attacks has been much lower than would be expected if guns had been used. As for the Bath School disaster, I'd make two points:

a) It was easy to obtain legal dynamite at the time, for farming purposes. Restrictions on dynamite were subsequently tightened – largely because of the school attack, IIRC – and that measure seems to have worked.

b) Building bombs is apparently not that easy. Andrew Kehoe was only able to wire the school to explode because he was the school handyman, and even so, half his charges didn't go off. The Columbine shooters attempted to bomb the school cafeteria, which would have killed many more people than the shooting had they been successful, but their bombs failed. (And bombs require a much higher level of premeditation.)

111:

I don't think banning access to guns is going to happen in the USA...altering a constitutional right is not quite as easy as many of you think. Perhaps a solution is to train and arm the teachers. We trust policemen with guns so why not teachers. Make them swear an oath to protect their school and students , train them up, and give them ongoing psych testing to make sure they aren't going loopy.

112:

"Canada has a lot of guns – Rifles, not handguns, & they tend not to be fully-automatic. It makes a difference, as does the culture."

A lot?

Well, compared to England, yes, but consider these numbers: Canada, with a population of 40 million has about 6 million or so rifles and shotguns in the hands of its citizens (most of them hunters with several firearms each, living in what are _extremely_ rural areas, by UK standards), and a low number of pistols, mostly owned as private weapons by security agents, off-duty police or retired members of the military.

In contrast the US has about 300 million firearms, for a population of about 300 million. Those firearms are of all types and the cities and suburbs are chock full of pistol-owning citizens.

There's no comparison possible. Michael Moore is a nice guy for a lot of things but he's just spouting nonsense when he goes on saying that Canada has nearly as many firearms, per capita as the US. I think he's to blame for spreading that idea around.

113:

The US can still maintain the right to bear arms ie guns, but the question then becomes what type. Black powder muzzle loaders were what the original founders were obviously referring to etc. BTW, does the constitution allow citizens to "bear" anti-aircraft missiles and nerve gas?

114:

I live in country where weaponless population removed 50 years old dictatorship, and promptly rearmed itself to fight a war with neighboring state. For a while, everyone was armed with military weapons. You had farmers with APCs, and villagers putting up their own minefields. It took about 10 years after the war to disarm the population, through massive state sponsored campaign. Owning a firearm today is pretty difficult and expensive today and very few people do it. Needless to say, we have very low firearms murder rate and zero mass shooting in incidents.
Having lived in US Midwest for a number of years and witnessing the gun culture firsthand, there is no doubt in my mind that a) gun control makes shootings less frequent and B) disarming population is possible though difficult and c) no chance in hell of US deciding to do so.

115:

This an interesting comment I read a piece in a think the small wars journal that analysed 9/11 and Brevik and found that the hijackers and Brevik shared a lot of similarities middle or lower middle males who perceived they had lost out.

And of course one of the first ever car bombings (after the first ever against the NYSE in the 20’s) back in the 30's in the us was a disaffected farmer who tried to blow up a school.

And I think Charlie is right when he mentioned the culture of violence as Malcolm X said "Violence is as American as apple pie" - maybe it revolutionary societies tend towards violence more look at the race riots in the late50’s in the UK 1 dead the French riots in 60 they are still covering up how many died.

116:

Jay, about the only true claim to exceptionalism the USA can make is that its electoral system has enabled stable and peaceful transfers to take place over a period of more than 230 years.

(There was one catastrophic breakdown in 1860-65, but the conditions leading up to the slaveowners' treasonous rebellion were in place long before the US constitution. If anything, it's a minor miracle that the USA survived its first 80-something years without a civil war breaking out earlier.)

The Republicans today seem to have reached Peak White Rage insofar as they pushed every button they could to rally the racist vote, and all they succeeded in doing was to lose the election and turn themselves into a regional party in the process. Either they will begin to trek back towards the centre some time after 2016 rubs the message in, or they will dwindle and vanish around the time the Democrats fission (circa 2020-24).

So I'm relatively optimistic in the long term.

117:

To all those suggesting that the solution to these problems is arming more people or armed security checkpoints at so called "soft" targets: For the love of sanity, stop and think these idiotic arguments through for a few minutes! I don't even have the energy to point out the flaws here, and if you haven't spotted them already, there probably isn't any use in me or anyone else doing so.

118:

The 2nd Amendment has not been a realistic check on government power in a very, very long time. At most, some right-wing militia could be just enough of a nuisance to justify slaughtering them to the last man with armoured vehicles and helicopter gunship support.

Also, gun control doesn't make it out and out impossible to get hold of restricted firearms, but it sure as hell makes it more expensive. A rusty pocket revolver on the black market in Britain costs the same as a brand-new Glock pistol in Texas. (My source? Let's just say I know people who know people and leave it at that.)

119:

H: I think you may need to read this article by Rick Perlstein in which he skewers the source of the right wing paranoia.

TL:DR; version is, "follow the money, stupid". The right wing media machine, from Fox News down, is a massive money extraction mechanism that emits terrifying sound-bursts then offers to make the problem Go Away For Just $25 A Year.

However, it has a toxic effect on public discourse.

120:

It's fairly clear, from your anecdotes ("spree shooters stopped by armed neighbours") that if y'all had decent gun control regulations the spree shootings wouldn't have happened in the first place.

So my advice would be to stop tickling your tonsils with your toenails and take a hard look at why you are so attached to this meme of "self defense". Hint: the Newtown shooter's first victim was his mother. He shot her with her own gun, then used them on his rampage ...

121:

Conspiracy theories in general have a toxic effect on public discourse in the USA. They have long since moved away from being harmless fun by a few nuts.

122:

@58
"they are suicidal, but unwilling to do it themselves. " They guy in Newtown did it himself.
I considered suicide once when I had lost my job at the mental hospital and had fleas that I didn't understand and had broken up with my girlfriend which was a big mistake. Then I thought about how to do it and decided to rob a bank, that way win-win. Either solve at least my financial issues or die trying. But due to having empathy I decided I didn't want to endanger anybody else like that. So I decided to join the Army and volunteer for dangerous missions, because I felt there was something important other than myself, given that I had decided not to care about myself. So, we need laws to require people to be empathetic and care about something other than themselves. Not even first, just somewhere in the list of priorities. But seriously, maybe the educational system should somehow teach caring about something greater. I think a lot of the failings of secular society are being cultivated to make non-secular institutions look good, keep them a monopoly. The evil side effects are what I object to in them. But then, heaven is what matters, so no big deal about this life.


@77
NO, YOU'RE WRONG! WRONG WRONG WRONG!

@93
"lump all us Americans together, we're a vaired bunch"
Speak for yourself, I'm not varied.


@99
"More needs to be done to keep people from thinking mass shootings are the only option"
and
@ [somewhere up there, I can't find it now]
"people who are a bit unstable and have expectations but then fail to meet the expectations would be more likely to do bad things, which these days seems to include killing lots of people."

The current generation seems to be obsessed with being a big shot. Everybody wants to be a celebrity. See the things they do just to get a lot of hits on utube. Some education in ways to meaningfully be a bigshot rather than cheap shot might go a long way.

@107
Yes, they were all loopy together. If you watch the prepper shows on National Geographic or the Discovery Channel (did YOU do your homework?)they are supposed to make it a family thing. So she knows this guy is loopy and she gives him a gun. Probably valued him as an extra troop.

@109
"arm the teachers" I agree that all the argument about what should be is meaningless and doesn't address what is actually doable. The USA is not going to be converted to GB, or even Canada except locally and eventually. Any solution should take for granted the reality that there are gobs of guns out there and they aren't going away. But not arming all the teachers. No, that would be too many guns. Law and order is when there is one sheriff, not a crowd of them. That's a circular firing squad. Just the nice assistant principal or the manager of the movie theater or some poor kid from the ghetto working as a security guard. I think theories equivalent to "wouldn't it be nice if we had a gunless society" aside, in the midst of an environment full of guns and loonies there is a responsibility to provide security. There, I said it twice so I win.

But of course that's the smart solution and it won't happen, the Reichstag has already burned down and now we have to try to pry guns from all those cold dead hands, instead of just make a few jobs. Hopefully it won't be too much of a mess.

@92
"Also, isn't legislation in the wake of a tragedy apt to yield the sort of well-intentioned but poorly thought-out policy that gave us the TSA?"
Almost certainly it would be, at least in the initial version, if any legislation whatsoever could happen. I really doubt there will be anything above state level unless somebody figures out an awesome way to make everybody happy, such as with lowering taxes on the bottom 99 percent. Oh, they can't even pass that.

123:

Hello Stina,
I enjoyed your note [3] as it reminded of my daughter. When she was four, we where planning to buy s her a dolls house for Christmas and had taken her to the shop to choose. In the window was a castle - "I'd much rather have a castle".

The castle got played with a lot more than I suspect a dolls house would have done and also mean that her brothers would join in. If I remember correctlty the princess spent a lot of time rescuing the prince.

She managed the sword(s) later via fencing lessons... She's now in the assassins guild at University (don't ask)

With respect to guns, both my sons have been lucky enough to attend shooting camps with the Scouts at Bisley (HQ for the UK rifle association). This has been good as they have been taught that guns whilst interesting must be handled with care and are dangerous. This has been a useful antidote to the message created by computer games that violence solves things and it is easy to recover from being shot.

How this helps ? Perhaps you can only have a gun if you pass a test to show you know how to use it - we all have to do that before we're allowed out with a car ?

124:

"We've had our spree killers in the UK using firearms too; Dunblane and Hungerford and more recently Cumbria in 2010 (12 dead, 11 wounded)."

Some context for non-UK folk - the Hungerford spree killing got longarms banned for everything except hunting/vermin eradication, the Dunblane incident, which also featured little kids and their teacher as the victims, got handguns banned (the regulation is sufficiently rigorous that the Olympics needed a special exemption to be able to stage the target shooting events, fr'example).

Neither the Cumbria incident in 2010 nor the other incident in Northumbria shortly afterwards (the perpetrator of which appeared to have been a guy doing the 'suicide by cop' thing who choked during the spree-killing part - not that this is much comfort to the victims of course) has not resulted in any further regulations as yet and (IMO) probably won't.

Further note - a couple of years after Dunblane happened, a mentally disturbed young man tried to murder a bunch of infant school kids in Wolverhampton using a machete. Thanks to the impressive reflexive heroism of the classroom teacher, 21-year old Lisa Potts - who literally used her body as a shield for the children and suffered horrific injuries in the process, no one was killed during the initial attack and she bought enough time for other adults to intervene and run him off. This resulted in the subsequent apprehension of the assailant with no loss of life.

As with the Chinese parallel to Newtown, the alternative narrative if the attacker had been using a firearm was (and remains) obvious.

Regards
Luke

125:

A reference point indicative of how fast prevailing standards change:

In the mid-1970s to early 1980s I attended a Grammar school in Yorkshire.

Like many such schools it had a combined cadet corps (air force and army). Minimum age was 15. I avoided joining up -- I wasn't much of a team player -- but it was impossible to avoid seeing them marching around in their uniforms.

They kept about thirty SMLE rifles and a Bren gun in the school firing range. And used them.

Yes, this was a British school. It had its own light machine gun and a platoon's worth of battle rifles (albeit obsolescent by modern army standards), and ammunition, just thirty years ago.

I strongly suspect they don't have them any more ...

126:

Leaving aside the various misogynists around, the principal, Dawn Hochsprung, and the school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, charged the shooter. Victoria Soto stood up in front of the shooter and lied to his face, successfully keeping him from killing the children in her care.

Demonstrably, courage and heroism is not a quality that requires a Y chromosome and high levels of testosterone.
Or a gun.

I do think it's interesting, and possibly even relevant, that these mass-killings in the US have been perpetrated, almost exclusively, by the children of fairly well-to-do suburban whites.

127:

A recent Dr Who episode was set in a private boy's school about a hundred years ago, just before WW1. The school's Cadet Force had a belt-fed watercooled Vickers machine gun.

128:

Heh - my dad was given the dubious privilege of toting the platoon Lewis gun whilst on Putney Common during CCF manoevers in the early-50s and only realised he had left it behind on the common as they were marching back along the road towards Hammersmith Bridge ('Hmmm - why am I swinging both my arms as we march whilst everybody else is only swinging one? Oh, crap...').

He was given a spectacular bollocking by whichever teacher was in charge, sent back to retrieve the weapon with extreme prejudice and got to spend the rest of his CCF-time at school with the conchies (which was a result); that incident might well have contributed to his getting classified I-F ('physically, mentally or morally unfit') by his National Service medical a few years later (although his wearing a chiffon scarf tied just so, combined with the rouge and the perfume probably helped).

He did say that he got no backchat *at all* from the townie kids on the bus as he returned, what with him being in mud-spattered kit, an LMG clutched tight in both hands and a wild look about him. I can't think why.

129:

I've handled firearms since I was 10. The first rule my dad taught me was "never point a gun at anyone unless you mean to kill them".

Like OGH, I was at school with a cadet corps. I handled .303 rifles, sub-machine guns, and very occasionally got to use a machine gun. The rules on those were almost as simple as my dad's: "fool around with these and you will be expelled, hit or kill anyone and you will stand trial". That happened once in the five years I was in the corps; some moron thought it would be fun to put a pencil down a rifle barrel when we were on a blank round exercise. He was out of school within the day and the rest of us were paraded past the cow he killed from three fields away.

(I didn't mind having to fork over a share for compensating the farmer, but I did think it was unfair we didn't get the carcass to roast afterwards...)

So, yes, if I lived in a country where you can buy firearms for personal use, I'd like to know that any other holder has at least some idea of what firearms can do, and why they may - just may - be a last resort. That's one of several reasons I'll never see the US, because that's just not going to pass as legislation.

Upstream...

Scentofviolets @2,87 Stina @36,

Re. incompentency, you won't be surprised to find the die-hard Randians are in agreement with this, but they have their own very, very special way of reaching that conclusion:

"From the start of their grade-school they had stewed for years in a pot of irrationality that washed their brains of any critical faculty and left them inept to live and filled with rationalizations for their metaphysical incompetence -- it's somebody else's fault for their lack of self-esteem or ambition or whatever."

Quote from http://robbservations.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/its-madhouse.html. Memetic prophylactic required, also possibly brain bleach; but as a clear distillate of blame-everyone-else-but-you it saves time going through all the "Fox and friends" blogs.

130:

So I'm relatively optimistic in the long term.

That seems to be a basic tempermental difference between us.

My point of view is that we live in a world that's seen hundreds of failed democracies because democracy is always threading a needle between two failure modes.

One failure mode, call it the "Saddam" mode if you like, is that one faction accumulates enough power to put an end to the whole "competitive elections" thing.

The other main failure mode, which might as well be called the "liberum veto" mode, is that checks and balances accumulate to the point that nobody has enough power to do anything. History moves on and that government can't adapt. A sociologist named Mancur Olson discusses the process in detail.

131:

And, it is important to note, the UK hasn't been overrun with gun toting criminals robbing from everyone they meet. Unlike what the gun lobby in the USA claims would happen.

132:

Some notes:

1) economy is down compared to 80s-90s. Weirdly, Stina, homicide rate and mass murders are both down.
What economy factor did you have in mind?

See here:
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2012/07/aurora_shooting_how_did_people_commit_mass_murder_before_automatic_weapons_.html

2) Russia, which has strict gun control, where all people can buy are traditional hunting weapons(shotguns*, bolt action rifles) , has a homicide rate of 10 per 100K. More than twice that of the US.

3) how exactly do these rampages matter?
Apart from being another example of human irrationality, where people freak out about very rare risks such as rampages or terrorist attacks.
That irrationality has been masterfully exploited by the US political establishment to erode civil rights and get away with almost anything. Doesn't that make you proud to care?

Meanwhile common risks, such as boozed up drivers (~10,000 dead per year in auto accidents in the US), coronary disease.. leave people cold.

4)
Isn't the ~7,000 murdered blacks per year more of an outrage? I understand twenty dead little kids from the upper crust are easier to get outraged about.. but what's 20 or even 50 to 7000? Statistical noise.


@Charlie
that if y'all had decent gun control regulations the spree shootings wouldn't have happened in the first place.

Not true. Check out Germany. Some of the most onerous gun laws short of an outright ban. And a narcisstic psycho shot a lot of people after stealing a gun from his father. Or Korea,where guns are a no-no a drunk psycho cop shot 50+ people. With guns and grenades out of the police armory of course.
Or Russia, where they had that lawyer with a shotgun shot six of his colleagues dead (90% of shotgun injuries are fatal, 90% of handgun ones are not). Semi-auto rifles and handguns are not legal there.

Legal guns are not a necessity, as a brief look at far Eastern killing sprees will reveal. IIRC, worst case of mass murder in the US involved planes, the second worst Kool Aid and the third worst tons of fertilizer and diesel fuel and a few pounds of high explosives

133:

One failure mode, call it the "Saddam" mode if you like, is that one faction accumulates enough power to put an end to the whole "competitive elections" thing.

Any British government has, by definition, got enough power to put an end to it; it wasn't called "an elected dictatorship" by Lord Hailsham for nothing. (The Queen can, in theory, veto any law put before her. She gets to do that precisely once, then it's "hello, Commonwealth 2.0".)

Saddam got to be dictator because his party -- a tightly disciplined pan-Arab nationalist socialist party with fascist overtones -- came out top of the dogpile of a lengthy and bloody civil war after a weak absolute monarchy (i.e. not a constitutional monarchy like the UK) collapsed. Iraq, as has become obvious since the invasion, had about as much cohesion as a republic as Yugoslavia, for much the same reason: it had its origins in a bunch of ethnically diverse squabbling principalities carved off the corpse of the Ottoman empire.

I am therefore not convinced your model is globally applicable.

The other main failure mode, which might as well be called the "liberum veto" mode, is that checks and balances accumulate to the point that nobody has enough power to do anything.

This was designed into the US system. Again, it is by no means universal. Constitutionally the UK may actually be in the process of acquiring an independent judiciary for the first time right now, but we're still not big on the three-way gridlock of separation of powers that causes so many headaches in the US.

We might be better off if we were ...

134:

I tend to wonder if our hang-up is based on lack of temporal depth, as the nation isn't that old. I mean, your apartment is almost as old as my state is...There's a need to imply legitimacy through having something hefty in the time line. Founding Fathers, yeah! Super heroes for a super nation! w00t!

Plus, "Founding Fathers" is just so deliciously patriarchal...

135:

Iraq ... had its origins in a bunch of ethnically diverse squabbling principalities carved off the corpse of the Ottoman empire.

And America had its origins in a bunch of ethnically diverse squabbling territories that broke off from the British Empire.

If you don't like the "Saddam" name for that failure mode, feel free to call it "Shah" or "Lenin" or "Caesar". The internet frowns on the H-word, though.

Currently I'd say America is closer to the second failure mode than the first.

After I posted I realized that I'd omitted one of the more common failure modes, civil war.

136:

Stina, I think this is a tremendous idea. Just. Oh my. This.

Sorry to gush. I've got hunting buddies who took a crack a while ago at producing their own ammo. They gave up at doing so after a short amount of time. It's a pain compared to the convenience of OTC shells.

Plus, it wasn't really full-fledged making. More just measuring out charges. No forging brass into cylinders, or jacketing lead with copper, or fiddling with primer chemistry. More of a 'some assembly required' approach.

137:

Mibbae aye, mibbae nay.

Either way, the US Supreme Court is the ultimate deciding body on the meaning of the clauses and amendments of the USIan Constitution.

No-one seems to have a cite that says that the USSC has said that the "right to bear arms" does not include a 106mm trench mortar or a Maxson turret from an M16 half-track (both of which I've seen video evidence of being in civilian hands; try You-Tube if you want to see it yourselves).

138:

#105 Point 1 - I repeat the question "How does this (the 2nd, as ratified) impose any requirement for firearm owners to be trained, never mind members of a state militia?" It seems to me that it's 2 logically separate statements. The first statement says "we need well-trained militias". The second says "people have a constitutionally enshrined right to own and carry firearms". What is (regretably IMO) missing is any link between the 2 statements, such as for example "A well regulated and trained militia being a necessity for the defence of the state, the right of those citizens who are members of, and attend training sessions for, their $locality militia to bear arms shall not be infringed"*

* I am not a lawyer, and spent less than 5 minutes on this; I'm trying to illustrate the point where I feel the 2nd is lacking, rather than actually write something watertight.

139:

Ref your PS - I'd been told the thing about the ubiquity of gun ownership in Canada multiple times, by Canadians. OK?

140:

The question you aught to ask is why is crime down all across the board? Explanations might include less stuff worth stealing, far fewer teenagers, less crime reporting (The official stats in the UK are fiddled regularly) and suchlike.

Russia having a higher homicide rate just indicates that, as many of us have been saying all through this thread, that culture is a major factor. You have a violence oriented culture, lots of people get hurt. Same reason you get more violence in Glasgow city centre and murders than elsewhere, although they have been reducing that recently through good policing and cultural factors (not by increasing the number of people carrying offensive weapons).

Charlie's point re Germany etc is that if you did have proper gun control laws in the USA there wouldn't be so many guns around and a vanishingly small number of shootings, as we have here in the UK.

Many of us here are capable of planning and putting together the stuff necessary for a major terrorist campaign, but are ethically limited and incapable of carrying such a thing out. But we can still say that your "hey they'll just use something else" is a pathetic excuse - the point is to increase the barrier to the action, not render it totally impossible (although some people are stupid enough to think that is possible).
Which is where better mental health, better policing and cultural changes so that criminality falls are a good thing.

141:

And America had its origins in a bunch of ethnically diverse squabbling territories that broke off from the British Empire.

White Males are an ethnically diverse group? I suppose you're referring to populations with British (the majority), German, or other European ancestry. The Natives didn't count, neither did the Africans forced over the sea, not even white Women.

That's not the same as what Charlie's talking about--antagonistic groups of different ancestry* forced to live together by threat of violence, who eventually learn to tolerate one another, but once the threat has gone resume their old ways.

*think tribal/religious warfare, not squabbling.

142:

You know about the alleged correlation between abortion being legalized in the USA and the decline in violent crimes around 15-20 years later?

And the similar correlation between lead additives in petrol being banned and (ditto)?

Russia: there's a country with alcohol issues that make Glasgow look like Sobriety Central. (This year they finally changed the law to classify beer as alcohol. Previously anything that was less than 10% alcohol by volume was classified and taxed as food ...)

143:

@ 108
Yes, making bombs is diificult.
You want them to go off when told to & ONLY then & not at other times. My father did this 1941-5 at Ardeer – very interesting.

@ 111
Of course, there’s a similar “out” in the UK. Any weapon made before $Date (I think 1912?) counts as an “antique” & you don’t need a licence. But you will need a licence for the ammo – unless it’s black-powder, which is another game again (!)

Cimgiuro @ 112
Where, please?

Charlie @ 118
See my comment re shooter’s mother – she was nuttier than any known fruitcake, never mind him!

Jay @ 128
Third failure mode for a democracy is that it becomes a corporate state, with “apparently” different parties swapping guvmint, & enjoying the same round of corrupt offices & cushy jobs. Slightly more than the 0.1% in charge (more like 0.3%, probably) but just a toxic in the long run.
Britain, especially inside the EU, is heading rapidly down that path

Charlie @ 131
The Queen can, in theory, veto any law put before her. … and she doubtless daily hopes it never, ever gets that far – hence the duty of both the Lords & the monarch to advise & to warn.

144:

The Queen can, in theory, veto any law put before her. … and she doubtless daily hopes it never, ever gets that far

She gets to do it exactly once.

Thereafter we are getting into the constitutional Twilight Zone; last time this happened it resulted in a parliamentary coup, and the time before that it resulted in about three civil wars and the death of 10% of the population of these islands.

(My guess is that what happens afterwards depends on what the government tried to do that was so out of order that the Queen took exception to it, given that the Queen is pretty much the definition of "old establishment" and doesn't appear to hold with boat-rocking. I suspect it would take something on the order of the cabinet trying to turn the UK into a no-shit for-real dictatorship, and possibly not even that, to make her use the royal veto; and the outcome would depend on who was more popular, Queen or Parliament. In the long run, nobody would win -- it would mean, at a minimum, the constitutional bankruptcy of a system that has operated -- modulo extensive changes -- continually since 1688.)

145:

"Yes, making bombs is difficult."

Well, not really.
Except when compared to pointing a gun and pulling the trigger. Anyone with a knowledge of chemistry at undergraduate level can probably make a decent bomb and some really nasty chemical weapons. And those from the legendary "household chemicals". However, it does take a lot of time - probably plenty time enough for whatever motivating rage exists to damp down. Which is why only the ideologically (intellectually) driven tend to do it.

146:

"Constitution a static unchanging document stuck in time, thus the fascination with the Founding Fathers. So when they wrote "men" did they mean mankind or simply white men with land.

Living Document is basically the opposite, that the language is flexible and the modern world should be taken into account when interpreting the text."

Thanks for this. That explains a lot.

147:

No-one seems to have a cite that says that the USSC has said that the "right to bear arms" does not include a 106mm trench mortar or a Maxson turret from an M16 half-track (both of which I've seen video evidence of being in civilian hands; try You-Tube if you want to see it yourselves).

You probably won't find one. People can own items like cannons, mortars, rocket launchers, even tanks. They're usually grandpa's WWII trophy brought home (obviously not the tanks), or belong to 'Collectors'. The Boy Scout troop--on an Army post--that I was in for a short time (wasn't my thing) had a disposable bazooka, essentially a two-piece, telescoping tube with pop-up sites.
Of course the thing about them is that you can't get ammunition for them. Though with cannons you can do-it-yourself, and you can drive a tank over cars, or through a building.

148:

"The castle got played with a lot more than I suspect a dolls house would have done and also mean that her brothers would join in. If I remember correctlty the princess spent a lot of time rescuing the prince."

I love that story. Ha!

"She managed the sword(s) later via fencing lessons... She's now in the assassins guild at University (don't ask)"

I've studied fencing too. Both Western styles (foil, epee, saber, two-handed w/knife or buckler) as well as Eastern (Kendo.) Fencing is a lot of fun. It's chess with swords. Currently, I've been studying Wing Chun Kung fu. (Although, I've taken a break recently.) I suspect your daughter and I would get along well... you know, except for the assassin part. ;)

149:

Well, since you mention the point, here in the UK you can legally own armoured vehicles (private individuals do in fact own anything up to last gen 152mm Self Propelled Guns and 2 gens back Main Battle Tanks) as long as the gun is well and truly "spiked". I picked the mortar and Maxson advisedly, because I've seen them both being fired.

150:

think tribal/religious warfare, not squabbling.

Like the French and Indian Wars? Tribal conflicts between "white" populations in the 18th century were often lethal. Napoleon and all that.

151:

re: bomb making

The US Army Field Guide to Improvised Munitions is legally available, and offers tested, relatively idiot-proof methods.

Buying it on Amazon may make you a suspect in any nearby bombings, of course.

152:

"See my comment re shooter’s mother – she was nuttier than any known fruitcake, never mind him!"

I'm sorry. I'm not allowing this statement to remain unchallenged. It's too easily interpreted as a judgement based upon her gender.

153:

@guthrie (#16) - my personal experience with injury and violence mostly has to do with motor vehicles. I've only had a gun pulled on me once, and in that case I was able to talk the criminal involved into not firing on me. I've not been so lucky with vehicles, but I think they are off topic in this thread.

@Charlie Stross (#47) - I was specifically thinking of the "one's home is one's castle" legal logic for my distinction between guns and nuclear arms. You can't use a nuclear weapon at home, though you are right that you can launch one a long distance away.

@scentofviolets (#89) - libertarianism seems to be based on the idea that P=NP -- that the knapsack problem is solvable by economics. So, it falls apart, for long term and involved problems.

@jmjxr (#94) - yes :(

@megpie71 (#95) - Perhaps the real problem is the english language? http://www.wnd.com/2001/03/8340/ - not sure how that's stood up over the years, though... (while, I am being a bit snarky, here, I think that there is a real problem with observer bias.)

154:

I believe it was a judgement based on her belief in the necessity to stockpile arms due to the imminent collapse of the US economy/state/world as currently known, but perhaps I'm being lenient. ",)

155:

In the UK it would make you more than suspect - it would get you arrested under laws covering "materials for terrorism". However, so far chemistry textbooks have not been banned.
http://as.exeter.ac.uk/it/regulations/regs/terrorismcoc/

"It is an offence to:
collect or make a record of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism; or
to possess a document or record (including a photographic or electronic record) containing information of that kind (ie any document that would provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing for an act of terrorism eg an Al Qaeda training manual)."

156:

Despite living in the UK I do not think that preparing for emergencies is merely some insane US fad.

157:

Like the French and Indian Wars? Tribal conflicts between "white" populations in the 18th century were often lethal. Napoleon and all that.

And what exactly does that have to do with the founding of the US (which is what you were talking about)?

158:

On a slightly different tack, I'm wondering about Senator Feinstein's proposed assault weapons ban, reinstituting the one she passed in 1994.

My first thought is that it won't work. I got to play with an assault rifle a couple of times back in the late 80s, and the damn thing was *fun* to shoot. It was only slightly behind the 22 LR in hitting bullseyes at the range, and the bullets were ever so much larger. Somehow the thought of banning something that's big, loud, dangerous, and fun seems a bit like Prohibition 3.0. We know how well prohibition worked for alcohol and marijuana, and I suspect that gun manufacturers can innovate past the ban faster than Congress can keep up with them.

My second thought was that one alternative might be to ban possession of assault weapons by anyone who is younger than 27 and hasn't passed some sort of psych inspection. The reason I'm suggesting this is that:
a) Schizophrenia and psychosis manifest most frequently in the late teens and early 20s. While most of the mentally ill aren't mass shooters, most mass shooters appear to be mentally ill. Setting the age of ownership above the age of danger seems reasonable, if not perfect.
b) my gun craziness peaked in my early 20s. While I don't mind shooting even now, it's a bit different.

I have no idea how you do a psych screening, but since they're talking about adding psych issues as part of the screening for getting a gun, presumably it's possible.

Does this make any sense to anyone?

159:

Note that these laws are generally only applied to people of a specific skin hue and religious affiliation. And the materials in question come to light during police searches of premises occupied by people already suspected of planning to commit acts of terror.

I suspect that if, for example, I bought such materials in the course of research for my next book, and some jobsworth noticed and decided to prosecute me for it, I'd end up with a very big legal bill but a "not guilty" verdict (novelists are generally not "a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism").

Either that, or an even bigger bill and a finding by the ECHR, some years later, that the law in question violates basic civil rights and needs to be struck down.

(I'd prefer the latter. The law in question is too damn close to a thought crime for comfort; I'd have less trouble with it if it was phrased in terms of intent, i.e. possessing such materials with intent to commit acts of terrorism, but as it is ...)

160:

From a purely selfish personal POV I like fine weapons. If I was a US citizen I would have a collection of several eg HK417, Walther P99, maybe an AS50 sniper rifle.

161:

This is how such pernicious laws work. You might know, with a 95% probability that you would be found innocent. However, there is the doubt, and the expense not to mention possibly languishing on remand for a year or more.

162:

Kinda, but you're missing a couple of tricks:
1) a "that's an assault weapon, under the X Act I hereby" is a lot easier to enforce than "that's an assault weapon, can I see some ID and your gun licence please? Oh, you've left your gun licence at home, ok, well can you pop into the station with it at your earliest convenience?"
2) if it's banned for the under-27s, they can still pull "giz a go" on friends at the range and realize what they're missing. And unlike under-18s, under-27s can vote.

Also, wanna bet a psych screening would be a checklist delivered by a bored GP?

163:

Yes.

Incidentally ...

Over lunch I was talking about the whole gun control thing to Hannu Rajaniemi, who remarked that there are very few spree killers in Finland, even though they've got universal military service.

I asked about exemptions from universal military service for the mentally ill, and he thought about it and said, "yes, but their evaluation is a bit cursory -- there's a questionnaire, 'do you hear voices in your head', that sort of thing."

My suspicion is that states with conscription do try to avoid handing firearms to schizophrenics or paranoids, and the questionnaire is just there to flag people who need further screening (either because they're trying to dodge the draft or becaise they really are hearing voices in their heads).

Which may in turn feed into the relatively low spree killing frequency in countries like Israel[*] and Switzerland.


[*] Politically-motivated killings excluded.

164:

There is also usually an NCO with a loaded weapon standing behind conscripts doing their target practice in case "something happens".

165:

Depending on how you define ubiquitous, the Canadian justice system disagrees with you.
http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/rs/rep-rap/1998/wd98_4-dt98_4/p2.html

This is however 1990's data


The percentage of households owning at least one firearm varies considerably across Canada (Angus Reid, 1991; Block, 1998). The results of a 1991 Angus Reid survey indicate that 67 percent of households in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories owned firearms, compared with 15 percent of Ontario households (Angus Reid, 1991: 7). More recently, the 1996 International Crime (Victim) Survey (ICVS), which did not include the two territories, found that 35.8 percent of households in the Atlantic provinces owned firearms, compared to the 32 percent reported by Angus Reid. Households in Ontario still had the lowest percentage of firearms at 14.2 percent (Block, 1998:7).
...
Block’s analysis of the results of the ICVS data for Canada and eight other Western countries showed that 48 percent of U.S. households owned at least one firearm, while only 2.5 percent of households in the Netherlands had one or more firearms (Block, 1998). Canada’s rate of 22 percent of households owning firearms was in the middle range of the nine countries (Ibidem).

2012 data on licences and the like:
http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf/facts-faits/index-eng.htm

I would personally have a problem with about 5.7% of the population having gun licences (varying per state) being described as 'ubiquitous'. Or rather its about 1.9 million licence holders, which is around 5.4% of the Canadian population. I still don't think of that as ubiquitous.

166:

Makes sense to me to set a psych evaluation and age minimum as requirements to obtain a particular kind of gun. Wouldn't have helped in the recent case because it wasn't the shooter's gun.

One minor quibble is that I read somewhere that for some reason males average onset of schizophrenia is about 18, whereas for females it is after age 30. And, of course, the tendency for it is hereditary.

http://schizophrenia.com/szfacts.htm

I don't think the NRA would stand for it at federal level and they have clout, even now. Apparently states can do it though, because in New York state, for example, you have to have a license (don't know quite what that entails) to have a handgun and any rifle with a magazine is also forbidden. Strictly shotguns and hunting rifles if you want to go low profile. And that's nothing compared to New York City. Though you can always buy an arsenal in Texas and drive it in on the interstate. I don't know what the supreme court would say about regulation of interstate transportation of guns violating the 2nd amendment (that's bearing), but having the wrong kind of weapon is already illegal in New York, so making it illegal to bring it in is just adding more ignored laws to the ones already being ignored.

168:

A question, or two, (that you don't necessarily have an answer for).
In countries with universal military service, are many guns are kept in the home, or are the majority of them kept in armories?

Regarding Israel, the only spree killing committed by an Israeli that I can think of involved an ultra-orthodox man, who was likely exempt from service. How does that figure in?

Also, I end to disagree with the notion hat some of the killers were mentally ill. I'd say they all are, to some degree. Sane people do not commit murder. By sane I mean clinically, not legally.

169:

I'd need to think it through to try and find practical issues, but I think it makes sense in principle, as long as it is properly enforced and practiced. For instance, the "Dunblane Massacre" (qv this thread) would actually not have happened had the police done their job properly and not just rubber-stamped the gunman's licence renewal.

170:

IIRC there are some peculiarities and the Dunblane Massacre, including the govt hiding some evidence under a 100 year rule.

171:

Anecdotal, but regarding Israel:-
A Palistinian gunman tried to gun down a Tel Aviv bus queue. Most of said queue were reservists and carrying. They ducked, covered and returned fire. None of the queue were hit, but the gunman apparently died from somewhere around 30 separate hits, no more than 3 shots of which were fired from any individual weapon.

172:

Quite possibly; my comment that you replied to relates to contemporary to the event print reports from some of the less gun-adverse reporters in the Scottish media.

173:

D'oh. tend to disagree.

I once swore to myself that I wouldn't get into any gun discussions here. Not a topic I care for. Oh well.

Meanwhile, here in Colorado Springs, a neighborhood is being evacuated because homemade explosives have been found in a home, and a school in Pueblo is on lockdown (the lockdowns are usually because of a suspect in the area). Things that seem to happen locally at least once a year. And because it was just mentioned on the news, yet another accident on I-25 at Exit 141--as mentioned in "The Apocalypse Codex".

174:

I thought of mentioning that Israeli reservists (essentially any eligible Israeli who has served their two years) are more likely to have service arms at home. But since I'm not sure of that, I didn't. I know several Israelis, but this isn't something I'd generally ask them about.

175:

My point was that the rebelling American states had significantly different and often antagonistic cultures, and that if they hadn't had to cooperate against England they would have fallen on each other (as they eventually did, and may do again).

If you're interested in that sort of thing, Colin Woodward's book _American Nations_ is worth a read.

176:

Amusingly, you can buy the Army field manual I referred to on Amazon.co.uk.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Improvised-Munitions-Combined-Firing-ebook/dp/B005EYSP2W/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1355774508&sr=8-3

The lack of customer reviews seems rather ominous.

177:

Some reactions/questions – not in any particular order.

The biggest horror is that majority of victims were 6 and 7 year-olds. That's little more than babies.

In any crime novel/TV show/movie and probably in a court of law, there are 3 key factors central to a crime: MMO (means, motive and opportunity). If just one of these is missing, then the suspect is likely to go free. The U.S. is enabling potential murderers by making it (too) easy to acquire weapons.

The comment from a REP that the principal should have had a high-powered gun to defend her charges – really? This is what you want 6 and 7 year olds to learn: that life is cheap, and anyone that the-in-situ-authority-figure deems not to belong deserves to/should have their head shot off? (BTW – the principal was at a meeting, probably not in her own office. So does this mean she would need to cart her big gun around in some shoulder holster just in case?)

Does it make it easier to justify mass murders of innocents if you allow yourself to be persuaded of or to yourself promulgate the fiction that ‘these children are now with God/in a better place’? The only verifiable fact is that every one of these children is gone ... forever. Each child is/was unique, irreplaceable. This ‘gone-to-a-better place’ myth also needs to be addressed as it dovetails too neatly with right-to-have/use guns.

If these children had died because a county medical officer said that they didn’t need to get immunized for what in other parts of the world had already been shown to be very deadly flu outbreak, wouldn’t it be reasonable to be outraged if 20 children died in that one community? More cynically – in a death-by-flu scenario in the U.S., wouldn’t the parents/families be expected (even encouraged by REPs) to get together to launch the largest class-action wrongful death lawsuit ever against the public health medical team/hospital that whoever should have protected your children’s health ... fully expecting to win?

Mental health, autism, etc. – it seems that the most effective means to reach/teach U.S. masses about social issues is via TV/movies. But this should be an honest depiction showing the very wide range and degrees of mental health issues. While I enjoy the show, I find Criminal Minds - intentionally or not - seems to be saying that neuro-atypicals are much likelier (than neuro-typicals) to be potential killers. If other viewers are getting a similar perception, then no wonder mental health spending is where it is and the public at large feels perfectly comfortable with having neuro-atypicals imprisoned.

178:

Okay, point taken. But the Colonies weren't nearly as ethnically/culturally diverse, and antagonistic as the Bosnians, Serbs, and Croats. Which is how I took Charlie's point.

Admittedly, I always tend to forget what the French-Indian War was about, and who was involved. My interest in history tends not to focus on the fightey bits.

179:

You can also get "The Anarchist's Cookbook".

180:

Para 4 (or is it bullet 3?) - This always makes me think of Bigby's first rule of combat. "If you arrive unarmed at a fight, that's ok; someone else will have brought a weapon that you can have".

Or, from Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" "There are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous people".

Either way, there is no point in arming people who are not prepared to use those weapons.

181:

AKA The Jolly Roger cookbook.
I read it once, and it's more like a DIY suicide manual.
Some of the recipes are extremely dangerous to the maker.

182:

Either way, there is no point in arming people who are not prepared to use those weapons.

This has implications for the peanut gallery who are screaming "arm the teachers". Consider:

A spree killer who turns up at a school intends to kill people. As many as possible. Stray rounds are merely wasted ammo if they don't hit someone (anyone).

But a teacher with a handgun can't afford any stray rounds whatsoever. They risk hitting the children they're trying to defend.

That's inevitably going to place a huge inhibition on even an experienced shooter in that situation, and the upshot, unfortunately, is that the spree killer has the advantage -- and the hypothetical armed teacher's handgun is most likely going to end up giving the spree killer a spare reload.

(This ignores such other factors as, well, routinely carrying handguns around six year olds who may not be aware that they're not toys. Or stressed-out teachers or teachers having psychotic breakdowns having guns in their possession in the middle of a classroom full of little horrors, anyone of whom could by acting out become the final straw that breaks the camel's back.)

183:

@175
"So does this mean she would need to cart her big gun around in some shoulder holster just in case?"

Should probably be locked up in her desk, and the assistant principle should also have access to it.
Both should be trained in using it in accordance with some well defined procedures, similar to what is required of armed security guards. Nobody should ever see it unless somebody breaks in and, when confronted, shoots the confronting principal. Then the surviving principal might be able to shoot the intruder prior to the intruder getting to a classroom to shoot 20 babies.

Such a plan teaches nobody anything about autocracy.
And it probably wouldn't have to be a really huge gun.
Just a standard police pistol. This fix would be fast, whereas any other would be much slower.

184:

there are very few spree killers in Finland, even though they've got universal military service.

Well... that's really not a great example. It is of course true that there are very few people in Finland, and therefore very few spree killers. But the "shoot the wife, the kids, the dog and yourself" (in that order, apparently) family drama is disturbingly common (as is suicide overall), and there have been two shooting sprees in Finnish schools in recent memory (at Jokela in 2007 and Kauhajoki in 2008), as well as a number of other shootings.

185:

Yes Charlie, that is exactly where I was going with that. There is no point in arming anyone who is not prepared to use their weapon at need, and in a typical spree killer environment there's still very little point in arming anyone who does not:-
1) Possess impeccable trigger, muzzle and fire discipline; basically, we're talking about somehow putting someone like 'Dirty' Harry Callaghan in every classroom!!
2) Possess the sheer calm to never, ever, even contemplate pulling a gun on that little [censored] in class 2F!!

186:

"I remember returning soldiers being spit upon too. (Our next door neighbor served in Vietnam.)"

This is a side question. But was your neighbor actually spit on? A while back, a reporter went looking for 'Nam vets who had been spit on, and eventually gave up after many, many friend-of-a-friend chains kept ending without finding anyone. I don't doubt that it actually happened, but I wonder if it was pretty damn rare.

187:

Actually, I agree that it's far from perfect, although it's less far from perfect than the previous ban on assault weapons.

Personally, I'm thinking that regulations on guns can either make them Cool (as in dangerous, fun, and illegal), or Granny Guns (primarily available to responsible, mature, notionally sane members of society who are willing to jump through hoops because they need them for some reason). I'm thinking that such regulations, besides being boringly commonsensical, may help deglamorize the things. One can look at all the extra grips and gear rails on an assault rifle as extra-badass, or you can look at them as orthopedic aids for people whose eyes and muscles aren't strong enough to handle a real (read hunting) rifle. Obviously, the military needs them because they've got to carry so much crap just to do their jobs, not because it's sexy to lug 100 lbs of gear around for home defense.

Assault rifles can be marketed as guns for geeks, gearheads, and corporate tools, as much as they are currently marketed as sexy beasts. Were I trying to get them out of circulation, I'd consider approaching it that way.

188:

Alas, I fear you underestimate the marketing draw of the geek/gearhead dollar. That's a lucrative segment to sell to!

Maybe a better tactic would be to leverage the steampunk market in order to make black powder muzzle-loaders the acme of desirability? As in, you need to be a real man to reload your Brown Bess in less than 90 seconds while being charged by an angry Grizzly bear ...

189:

"Arm the teachers" is not a quick fix; it is f*cking moronic! Seriously, I really can't believe that anyone is seriously suggesting this as an option. I cannot imagine any teacher, unless they're wired very differently in the US, agreeing to store a gun (however securely) in the classroom with a bunch of small kids, and they would be even less likely to start a firefight in the presence of the kids. Even less likely when they are properly trained and understand that the risks in pulling a gun on an armed aggressor. This is another idea on par with "taking our shoes and belts off and beginning scanned makes us safer on an aeroplane".

190:

It's pie in the sky, and won't happen, but in the wake of this, I've come to the conclusion that the Second Amendment needs to be repealed. Without it there, effective gun legislation has better than a snowball's chance in hell of being passed.

With it, we get, at best, measures that slow the bleeding. Even the most liberal bill I've heard proposed would NOT be retroactive, leaving tons of these weapons of war out there, waiting to commit another sacrament for the God of Violence.

191:

Yup. This is why I have a large spear as one of my primary home defense tools. The problem I face is that there are a lot of bedrooms where I would have to shoot at a burglar, and unless I was highly accurate (in the dark, late at night), I'd probably put a bullet in some kid's bed after it went through a very flimsy wall. Not cool. Since my theoretical engagement distances are a few meters and a spear is silent (as well as black), it's an almost reasonable weapon for the situation, especially if I can get a jump on the intruder.

Teachers face similar problems. Aside from the challenge of keeping some kid from getting at the gun while it's lying around unused and she's teaching someone else (e.g. 100% of the time), if the unthinkable happens, she's got to get the gun, manage a group of scared kids and shoot, without the bullet going through a wall and hitting some other kids. Not a good situation.

The other 100% of the time, while I'm not worrying about the home intruder, I've found working out with a spear is great for my shoulders and back. Since it's about 90% cheaper than a gun and the reloads are free so long as you don't throw it, I suggest it's not a bad backup weapon for those who keep pistols for home defense.

192:

I found a copy online once and thought it very poorly done, even without having done any reading on explosives and suchlike it struck me as being rubbish.
A few years later I formulated the theory that it was kept in circulation partly by law enforcement who wouldn't mind if the would be bomb maker blew themselves up with their home made mercury fulminate detonator or other similar accident.

193:

Yeah, that works.

--%20

Sent from a real computer using Windoze 7, Chrome, and Fingers V 1.00!

194:

That would have the added advantages of reducing the number of gun owners and giving the grizzlies (and any other bears, for that matter) a high fat and high protein dietary supplement for hibernation.

195:

Like all wars, it was ultimately about financial gain, whether expressed in terms of money, land, furs, cowrie shells or slaves.

196:

I live in a small city in northern Canada, with an active hunting community. I would be astonished if gun ownership here approached even 50% of the population. Even a number of the farmers I know (Like my Dad) don't have firearms.
In the larger cities in southern Canada (where I have also lived) gun ownership is actually quite rare.

197:

I haven't really been worried about self defense since middle school, but pepper sprays are readily available around here. The major advantage is that in case of accident, the apologies are much easier.

198:

Repeat of #137 - I'd been told the thing about the ubiquity of gun ownership in Canada multiple times, by Canadians. OK?

199:

Aaaannnddd your point is? That the Canadians think that a 5% licenced to own guns rate = ubiquitous or that you do? Or that you fairly enough took them at their word and have now found that they were wrong?

200:

Well, that was my point the first time. The second time it was more "read the comments first!!"

201:

Is there any sort of change to US gun laws that would prevent further tragedies like the recent mass shootings?

The recent Clackamas mall shooting should have been a great showpiece for the "well-armed citizens" argument. Even given the number of people present, Oregon's liberal concealed-carry laws and the mall's location in a conservative suburb, there was no armed private citizen ready to put an end to things. (Which might be a good thing, given the number of bystanders.)

OTOH, Sen. Feinstein's "assault weapons" / "ugly semiauto rifles" ban is merely an attack on a class of rarely-used fetish-objects. It feels effective, and it makes the fanboys howl, but it doesn't keep angry people away from handguns.

Waiting periods, background checks and purchase restrictions may help cut the supply of crime guns and give pause to hotheads with $400 in their pocket, but the last few mass shootings have been done with guns that were already at hand.

As a left-wing pro-gun 'Murkin, I'll admit that my worldview and imagination are limited, so I hope I'm missing something.

If the past is any guide, our President* won't support any significant gun-control legislation, even as the Loyal Oppo continues to scream about confiscation. But maybe he'll be able to use this crisis as an opportunity to improve mental-health care.

*So far, the most pro-gun one we've had in 25 years.

202:

The recent Clackamas mall shooting should have been a great showpiece for the "well-armed citizens" argument. Even given the number of people present, Oregon's liberal concealed-carry laws and the mall's location in a conservative suburb, there was no armed private citizen ready to put an end to things. (Which might be a good thing, given the number of bystanders.)

I expect most readers have not heard of this, so a quick synopsis: before the school shooting there was a different spree killer, this one in a Portland Oregon mall with a stolen rifle; it ended with two innocents and the shooter dead, one person injured.

Yes, there are plenty of folks in the state who legally carry weapons (although I'd mention that it's not a great neighborhood). No, nobody dropped the shooter before he did it himself.

But one of the people in the mall food court did have a legal pistol. He drew it, aimed - and did not fire because he didn't have a clear shot without any innocent people downrange. This is an important bit, and often overlooked in fiction. The shooter fled into a nearby department store where he finished the job himself.

203:

raudmiller @ 151

I can actually comment on that. I've been inside an Australian house which was being burgled at least three times so far (either as the home-owner, or child thereof). Never noticed the burglars until they took the cars. Cars are noticeable when they're being nicked - in one case I heard it when the engine was switched on; in the second, I heard the automatic garage door being activated. In both cases, I escaped completely unscathed (in the second case of car theft, I was a bit winded from attempting to chase after the lads in question, because I caught them at it) and never suffered a scratch.

I doubt my experience is massively unusual in the case of Australian burglary victims. Yeah, the stuff being nicked is a nuisance, but the level of violence is generally pretty low. Home invasions, where the burglars come in carrying bats and such, seem to be a response to the hyper-paranoid "security screens, shutters, double deadlocks, alarms and bars on the windows" type of household, which has never really appealed to me (I don't like feeling like I've been locked in a cage). I should add that at least two of those burglaries occurred when I was living in a lower-middle class suburb, while the third occurred when we were living in a rather more upmarket suburb.

The Wing-Nut Daily is hardly a source for reliable information in any case, being the type of publication which is aimed fairly and squarely at conservative America. Their articles are intended to reinforce a mindset, rather than to actually inform or challenge anyone.

204:

heteromeles @ 156

The biggest problem with psych screenings is they're largely about self-reporting, and they depend largely on accepting the person who is being screened isn't going to lie to you. So the next biggest problem with them is people lie.

What I'd suggest as an alternative is a system of referrals - in order to be licensed to own an assault weapon, you have to provide the names of five personal friends and respectable citizens who would support your contention you're responsible enough to own such a weapon, AND who would be willing to face charges of criminal negligence should you one day decide to run amok with it. They'd have to have visited your house, inspected your storage facilities (or if you're storing the gun off-site, they inspect those storage facilities as well), and they would have to agree to police checks of their backgrounds and records too. Then make the licensing a renewable thing - every two or three years, you have to supply five names, with the proviso that only three of those can be the same from one renewal to the next, and you have to be supplying more than eight names over the course of three renewals. Direct relations aren't acceptable referrals - so no spouses, immediate family, cousins, parents, children etc.

This catches one of the key markers for a lot of the more dangerous types - they're generally fairly socially isolated, and they don't have many people they invite into their lives or their homes. Finding the five people to support their application in the first place might well be enough of a barrier to ownership; finding and maintaining relationships with more than eight people who'd be willing to stand up and go to jail for any crime they commit might well be beyond their capacities.

I'd also suggest having licensing for such things open to public comment, like applications for planning permission. You're planning to get hold of something which has the capacity to alter the lives of your fellow citizens, I figure they're entitled to be able to point out such salient points as a history of domestic abuse, a history of feuding and fighting with a neighbour, a contentious and trolling personality etc. Enough negative public comment, and you don't get the gun, chum, because it's clear the community around you doesn't trust you with the silly thing.

205:

@JamesPadraicR (#155)

And what exactly does that have to do with the founding of the US (which is what you were talking about)?

The taxes which were the precipitating factor in the War for Independence were established by Parliament to pay for the French & Indian War (the North American portion of the Seven Years' War).

At the time, the New England states, New York, and (probably) Pennsylvania had long-lasting conflicts with the Native Americans (who were not a homogeneous group, nor even one without internecine conflict -- some of the Native American nations got along about as well as the contemporary European nations of Britain and France). Militias at the time had a real reason to exist.

206:

Bombs and incendiaries have been used fairly often (and large aircraft rarely) but it looks to me as if building a large bomb without blowing yourself up or getting caught is harder than it looks. The same goes for the nerve gas attack in Japan. People who run amok with a knife or truck rarely kill more than two or three people thanks to modern trauma care. Since repeating firearms with large magazines are -designed- to let poorly trained soldiers kill several people quickly at close range, its not surprising that they are dangerous in the hands of madmen.

I think one step is stopping giving mass murders worldwide fame, with biographies and psychological profiles on every news channel. How to get the media to limit coverage of mass murders is a wicked problem.

207:

But one of the people in the mall food court did have a legal pistol.

Thanks for the correction. I've also just realized that I under the mistaken impression that the recent mass shootings (CT, OR, CO) had mainly involved handguns. While the shooters had handguns, they mainly used AR-15s, the most popular "assault rifle"*.

The "Tactical Reality" piece mentioned earlier is short and sweet, and makes a very good point: there are at least two distinct gun cultures in the US - hunters/target-shooters, and "enthusiasts"/"preppers" (fetishists/survivalists). While you can get a deer with one, AR-15s definitely belong to the "enthusiast/prepper" side.

I still suspect that a strict "assault weapons" ban would just play into the survivalists' paranoia without taking away the power of angry people to spray bullets.


*Please forgive the scare-quotes, I can't bring myself to use that noun phrase sincerely.

208:

Yeah, see the second half of my reply @176. But still not sure why Napoleon was mentioned.

When I was young my father did reenacting, American Revolution and American Civil War (representing British and Confederate), between that and growing up in northern Virginia (down the road from Mount Vernon), I learned a bit of the the history. Just don't always remember it. Also means that I grew up around the guns he collected, mostly Lee-Enfields and muzzle loaders.

209:

In theory, a referral system sounds great.

In practice, not so much. This is a classic description of an old boy's network. For example, who are going to be the first five black men who approve the sixth to own a gun? Or (in conservative border states) Latinos?

I agree with you that psych tests are not perfect, but even now, some gun shop owners reportedly refuse to sell to people they think are nuts or crooks. There's something to be said for making their lives easier (if they're ethical) or hammering on them (if they're not).

The real issue is that I don't think assault weapons are going to go away if they get banned. AR-15 sales and NRA memberships reportedly go up after each one of these shootings, and especially after someone wants to ban them.

These guns are like booze and pot. Their potential illegality really does add to their glamor. In this they are similar to switchblades, and ever since switchblades were outlawed, knife-makers have pushed the boundary as far as they dared to make a legal knife that acted precisely like a switchblade. The same happens with assault rifles.

If I really wanted to legislate to cut down on assault weapons sales, I'd require that they have a solid metal buttplate weighing at least one kilogram, that the gun could contain no recoil suppressors, and that the end of the butt plate could be no more than 1 cm wide. Then I'd outlaw all rubber cushions for these stocks. THAT would take away most of the fun of shooting them.

210:

you can buy flechette rounds with very low penetration profile if you are worried about that kind of thing....

211:

The problem with the various state assault weapons bans, and the federal ban they are based upon, is that they essentially work around the "scary feature" idea. That is, "x" is scary, and should be banned, even though it doesn't make the weapon any more deadly. Example, bayonet lugs are banned in most of the states that still have assault weapon bans. One was the last time someone bayonetted someone else?

212:

This being the internet, I shall answer your rhetorical question.

British Army officer awarded Military Cross for killing a Taliban fighter with his bayonet. That report doesn't give a date, but you can find him on LinkedIn, which summarises his career. It was during HERRICK 8, in 2008, and gazetted in October of that year.

There was a British unit ambushed in Basra, in 2004, who resorted to a bayonet charge.

They get training. Which makes a huge difference.


213:

Ah well, fair enough.

214:

Charlie @ 142
Exactly
Something like this happened in Greece in the 60’s
Constantine made the horrible mistake of acquiescing in the CIA-backed colonels’ coup.
Later he tried to reverse this, rather than declaring the whole thing unconstitutional, & that didn’t work either.
A lot of Greece’s fucked-up recent history dates from this disaster.

Dirk @ 143
Well, now Ammonium Nitrate is very difficult to get, pure, actually it IS hard.
So, you want a decent fuel-air explosion, since “petrol” is the easiest stuff to obtain … not an easy job at all.

Stina @ 146
Fencing is also amazingly hard work – I found I had muscles in the front of my lower legs that ached - & I already did a lot of dancing…
Very out-of-practice these days, though. See below commenting on 178 also.
& @ 150
NO it is NOT “based on gender”
They were BOTH nutty as fruitcakes, one male, one female. OK?
Sorry but you are seeing shadows that aren’t there … I had this problem once before, more years ago than I care to remember, when M Z Bradley was @ a long-ago Worldcon & it was supposed to be a “female-only” audience. They let me in, in the end, simply because I wanted to hear MZB.

JPR @ 155
A LOT to do with the founding of the US – because of paying for their part of the 7 years war, which finally threw the Froggies out of the N American continent. And, of course, the amazing incompetence of Lord North’s guvmint in doing that tax-collecting exercise. And, perhaps, the slave-owners (like G Washington) seeing which way the wind was blowing in England, and deciding to get their revenge in first?

Charlie @ 157
Actually, whether specifically expressed or not, there MUST be “Intent”, or no crime has been committed – basic part of English law. Which is another reason why “strict liabililty” crimes are a very bad idea. They are contrary to our own Bill of Rights, as well as the EUHCR …..

Paws @ 178
Either way, there is no point in arming people who are not prepared to use those weapons. To which, may I add … “and are prepared to use them, know how to use them, how to use them properly & when to stop!”
I had already learnt to fence, when my ex-tutor turned up @ the school I was then teaching at, so I rejoined for practice.
The number of 15-year old males who then thought they got an opportunity to hit a teacher WITH A SWORD was amazing – not that it did them any good. A then 45-year-old cynical & prepared me was a total over-match for all the testosterone-fuelled 15-year-old enthusiasts.
What really got those who stayed, was watching Eric (the tutor) & I going at it with sabres, to the point where we were striking sparks from the blades (yes, it really happens).
See also Charlie @ 180

@ 182
Ohh. Got to do it [Godwin-violation]!
Adolf poisoned the dog BEFORE he shot Eva & then himself.
Does this count?

Heteromeles @ 189
I keep two swords (the downstairs one is a practice sabre) @ home for exactly the same reason.

@ 193
ALL wars are about financial gain?
Tell that to the religious nutters.
Sorry, not buying that one.

215:

Speaking of AR-15s, here's me, firing an AR-15:

It was a fun toy ... for making holes in pieces of paper a hundred metres away, at a range. I certainly wouldn't want to keep one at home.

Its owner kept it in her car trunk because, as she put it, where she lived (outside Austin, TX) the police had an average response time to 911 calls reporting a shooting: around 20 minutes. (But I'd also classify her as something of a tactical hobbyist.)

216:

If I really wanted to legislate to cut down on assault weapons sales, I'd require that they have a solid metal buttplate weighing at least one kilogram, that the gun could contain no recoil suppressors, and that the end of the butt plate could be no more than 1 cm wide. Then I'd outlaw all rubber cushions for these stocks. THAT would take away most of the fun of shooting them.

As the tactical culture thing extends to body armour and camo outfits, I predict the response would be a boom in jackets with unfeasibly padded right shoulders.

The next step: sumptuary laws ...

217:

You can do pictures?
I'll have to review HTML.

218:

Reply to "Paws @ 178" - I was less concerned about accuracy and grouping, which can be taught using range targets, than about preparedness to fire (and indeed not fire if you don't have a clear shot where you're not going perforate not only the shooter but 4 kids behind him). I hadn't considered the point abut "buck fever" leading you to not stop firing then the shooter is down though.

@193 - Would you care to nominate a war where you think the primary motivator was religion rather than gain of one or more of land, money and political power? (Hint; the Crusades were actually about all of these, and simply used religion as an excuse)

219:

It's possible to create something about 2/3 power of TNT using salt, aluminium foil, charcoal and a battery charger. Then there's the classic peroxide/acetone route used by the 7/7 bombers.

220:

Left hand shooter? Brass ejecting across your face?

221:

There may be some confusion. In America the
principal is a school administrator or manager. The principal works in a separate office, not in a classroom with children, usually conveniently adjacent to the lunatics entrance, off a corridor or hallway that would be empty most of the time. There may be dozens of teachers working in separate classrooms diretly with children, who should under no circumstances be armed. (I had a Physical Education coach when I was in elementary school who used to line us up against a wall and throw a basketball at us hard, barely missing, to teach us not to flinch. He had a revolver he showed us sometimes. Eventually he was relieved of his duties by demand of the Parent Teachers Association(PTA) who probably went to see the principal about him).

Principals seldom enter classrooms and children seldom enter the principal's office. There is usually also an Assistant Principal who also works in an office, though they may be called on to occasionally teach a class if a teacher is unexpectedly absent and no substitute is immediately available. Children who are a disciplinary problem may be sent to the assitant principal for disciplinary action, such as a stern talking to, suspension (being sent home for a few days) or (in my day) corporal punishment. Just to clarify, not to argue by repetition.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy...

222:

Right-hand shooter, oddly enough, even though I'm left-handed. But with enough eye trouble to make using any kind of sights a bit interesting.

223:

Much as in the UK, with the note that the principal is also typically promoted from being a qualified etc teacher.

224:

As paws4thot @221 has said, this is much like the role of the principal in UK schools, and the physical location of their office is also often close to the main entrance. However, I'm struggling to envisage a scenario where an armed principal could effectively take down a gunman once they were within the school, without further endangering the lives of students and staff -- I am not a military expert, but I am aware that most soldiers look at urban clearance, working from building to building, room to room, as one of the most nightmareish combat scenarios; and this is what you are expecting a lone principal (probably with traingin provided by the lowest bidder or out of their own pocket) to do. Armed school staff still seems like a VERY BAD IDEA to me.

To go back to your original suggestion that included armed security guards, I guess that what you are really suggesting here is "hardening" potential targets to make them less appealing to a spree killer. I understand that some US high schools already take steps like this: Armed guards, bag searches, metal detectors, etc. Does this sound like the kind of environment you want elementary school age kids to be subjected to every day? I grew up in a society with this level of security paranoia -- not applied to schools, but ubquitous damn near every where else -- it's not pleasant, and it leaves some very odd residues in your psyche.

In the end, you're suggesting treating the symptom rather than the underlying problem, because it's just too much effort to tackle the problem directly. This still appears more than a little daft.

225:

paws @ 216
A lot of the 30 years war was about religion, especially the desire of the catholic church to "control" - so it was about power (as well), but not the usual sort.
The entrenchment of the differing self-selected corrupt elites in both parts of Ireland 1922-2008 (approx) it fell apart later in the South, but since the child abuse sacandal the RC appear to be finished ...
Their collapse, though later, appears to be more complete.
Internal crusades in Europe, especially the "Albigensian" one?
I'm not so sure about the First Crusade, either - wasn't that a result of an hysterical preaching episode by Pope UrbanII? Though it is suggested that he had recieved an appeal for physical defensive forces from the Bezant emperor, Alexio I Commenus.
Confusing.

Dave the Proc
Yup
Treating the symptom - the culture of violence in the USA, not "just" the guns.
Though with that many guns around, it does not help the situation.

226:

Sort of. My point was that the symptom is acts of violence using guns -- the underlying problems include the culture of violence *and* the easy availability of guns (plus probably a host of other elements, that likely vary significantly for each attack and perpetrator). It's easy to think of ways to suppress the symptom, it's hard to find solutions to the underlying problems (impossible for values of "easy solutions").

227:

The Albigensian Crusade you could make a case for both ways (purely religious or political masquerading as religious), particularly given the involvement of Gnosticism on the one side and the RC church on the other.

First line of the relevant Wikipedia article "The First Crusade (1096–1099) was a military expedition by Roman Catholic Europe to regain the Holy Lands taken in the Muslim conquests of the Levant".

228:

the underlying problems include the culture of violence

Violence is an element of every human culture. Watch a bunch of little boys if you don't believe me. Only the ways that violence is channeled and sublimated vary between cultures.

229:

"Violence as a part of a culture" is a very distinct thing from a "culture of violence". Nor am I saying that the whole of US culture is based on violence -- perhaps I should have phrased it as "a culture of violence" or "the sub-culture of violence".

(Also, I would not say that little boys are the only gender one could watch to observe how integral violence is to the human make up.)

230:

Did you keep one or two of the spent cases as souvenirs?

I assume that in the UK even spent cases are illegal (they are in Canada) but I also assume that given your pharma training you know exactly how much time you should place spent cases in a nearby ceramics oven, so that it becomes something with a different shape.

231:

Never mind how I know this, but not only are spent cases legal to own in the UK, but so are properly inerted unused rounds (propellant and percussion cap removed).

232:

If spent cases are illegal in the UK, there's an awful lot of us who are unaware of it, not to mention a number of businesses who are going to have a nasty shock - for instance, these guys.

233:

Or you program your CCTVs to recognize the dudes with the shooter's jackets and scream a warning to the cops. The TSA would love that particular solution, I think. I was waiting for someone to talk about slings and such, because AFAIK, a gun that's so back-heavy would have some serious recoil isues, unless you put another kilo of metal on the barrel, and then it would have some interesting weight issues.

Actually there are two interesting questions, for those with a ghoulish disposition:

--What's the working lifespan of something like an AR-15? Assuming these and similar guns went off the market, how long would the ones in the closet continue to stay in working order? On hunting rifles, this can be upwards of 50 years or more, but they only have a few moving parts.

--What are the alternatives to the conventional assault rifle design, assuming the US does the sensible thing and outlaws high capacity magazines and similar? Belt fed .223's? As I pointed out above, knife makers have spent decades finding ways around the switchblade laws, and gunmakers did the same when the first version of the assault weapons ban rolled out.

234:

"--What's the working lifespan of something like an AR-15? Assuming these and similar guns went off the market, how long would the ones in the closet continue to stay in working order? "

In theory several thousand years, if you disassemble it and keep the parts in the proper (cheap) jellies.

235:

Sorry about the length, but reliable background info is useful to good discussion.

Below are excerpts of 2006 data re: Canadian (vs. U.S., U.K. and Australia) firearms homicides. What I found most surprising is that homicides involving guns are much higher among youth vs. adults. (As well, there's a description of how these data were collected and Canadian firearms regulations.)


Title: Homicides committed with a firearm stable over past ten years

Source: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2008002/article/10518-eng.htm

There were 190 homicides committed with a firearm in 2006, accounting for 31% of the total number of homicides. The rate of 0.6 victims per 100,000 population was 16% lower than in 2005 and the same as the previous 10-year average.

The long-term trend in firearm-related homicides shows that the rate steadily declined from the 1970s to 1998 and has remained relatively stable since (Table 2). The peak of 1.3 in 1975 was more than double the rate in 2006.

The decline in the firearm-related homicide rate can be largely explained by a decrease in homicides involving rifles or shotguns (Chart 3). The number of homicides committed with a rifle/shotgun fell from 183 victims in 1975 to 36 victims in 2006, representing an 86% decrease in the rate (from 0.8 to 0.1 per 100,000 population).

Overall homicide rates are highest in the United States, followed by Canada, Australia, and England and Wales. While non-firearm homicide rates are similar between the four countries, the rates of firearm-related homicides are quite different (Chart 4). In 2006, Canada's firearm-related homicide rate (0.58) was nearly six times lower than the United States (3.40), but about three times higher than the rate in Australia (0.22) and six times higher than the rate in England and Wales (0.10). Firearms accounted for about one-third (31%) of all homicides in Canada, approximately two-thirds (68%) in the U.S., 16% in Australia and 7% in England and Wales.

Generally speaking, violent crime rates tend to be higher in western Canada than in the central or eastern part of the country. The 2006 rates of firearm-related violent crime mirrored this pattern, with Saskatchewan (38.5) and Manitoba (37.7) reporting rates that were two to three times higher than those in Newfoundland and Labrador (11.4), Prince Edward Island (12.3) and New Brunswick (15.6) (Chart 6). The rates of firearm-related violence in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut were substantially higher than those in the provinces.

Youth (age 12 to 17 years) accused of committing a violent offence are more likely than adults to use a firearm. In 2006, police reported 1,287 youth accused of a firearm-related violent offence, accounting for 2.8% of all youth accused of violence. This was higher than the proportion of adults who had committed a violent firearm offence (1.8%).

The rate of youth accused of a firearm-related violent crime increased in 3 of the past 4 years, following a 19% decrease between 1998 and 2002. The 2006 rate was 32% higher than in 2002 and at its highest point since 1998 (the first year of available data). The overall firearm-related violent crime rates for youth were driven primarily by robberies, which comprised about half of all violent crimes committed with a firearm by youth.

The 2006 rates of youth accused of a firearm-related violent crime in Toronto (96.2) and Saskatoon (91.6) were well above the national average (55.5) and higher than all other CMAs. At 2.0 per 100,000 youth, the rate in Québec was the lowest.

The 2006 overall youth homicide rate was at its highest point since recording began in 1974; however, the rate of youth accused of committing homicide with a firearm (0.4) was in-line with previous years.

Canada's firearm regulations

In Canada, firearms essentially fall into one of three categories: prohibited, restricted or non-restricted. In general, prohibited firearms include assault pistols, short-barreled handguns and combat shotguns, and are only permissible for certain exempted personnel such as military or peace officers. Most handguns are classified as restricted firearms, while rifles and shotguns normally fall within the category of non-restricted.

In order to own or possess a firearm or to purchase ammunition, an individual must hold a valid firearms license under the Firearms Act. An applicant must undergo screening provisions which include the completion of a multi-page form with a variety of questions concerning the applicant's personal and criminal history, personal references, and a mandatory 28-day waiting period.

All firearms falling within the restricted firearms category were made subject to registration requirements in 1934. In 2003, new legislation required all firearms (including non-restricted shotguns and rifles) to be registered with the Canadian Firearms Registry. As of March 2007, neariy 2 million individuals in Canada held valid firearms licenses for almost 7 million registered firearms - 92% for non-restricted firearms, 5% for restricted firearms and 3% for prohibited firearms. Between December 1, 1998 and December 1, 2006 about 20,000 firearms licenses were refused or revoked due to such reasons as court ordered prohibitions, potential risks to self or others, the applicant's history of violence, providing false information, mental illness and drug offences. During the same time period, more than 1 million registered firearms have been exported, destroyed or deactivated (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2007).

Surveys used in this Juristat
Three different surveys are used in this report. Unless otherwise noted, data from the Homicide and UCR Surveys represent victim counts and data from the ICCS represent case counts.

Homicide Survey
The Homicide Survey is a census of information from police services on all homicides (first degree murder, second degree murder, manslaughter and infanticide) that occur in Canada. Detailed information is available on the characteristics of incidents, victims and accused persons (where applicable). Coverage of the Homicide Survey reflects 100% of the total volume of homicides.

Uniform Crime Reporting Survey
The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey is a compilation of reported crime that has been substantiated through police investigation from all federal, provincial and municipal police services in Canada. There are two versions of the UCR survey used in this report: aggregate and incident-based microdata.

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For the U.S. sociopolitical-economic environment - I would strongly suggest using personal insurance coverage to reduce the attractiveness of firearms ownership/usage. Insurance companies are already known/assumed to be able to calculate risk - therefore their premium costs would probably not be challenged. People/consumers in general hate paying high insurance premiums therefore would be more likely to talk themselves out of getting a gun. Anyone who does own/use/have access to a gun would have to register it with their insurance provider. I would suggest a minimum of doubling the insurance premium paid across the board, i.e., on home, auto, life and business for owners of the most basic gun, because weapons are portable and the insurer could make the case that a gun-related crime could in fact happen within any of these scenarios. Further, the insurance premium would increase in direct proportion to the destructiveness of the weapon, i.e., assault guns would cost the owner 10 times more in insurance coverage. Lastly, tie this to the medical insurance coverage - since after all, if you use a gun, there's a pretty good chance you'll injure yourself and require some form of medical treatment.

236:

jay @ 226
And the degree of overall "social control" and tolerance and assimilation in a society.
People (sometime correctly - & please don't get me wrong on this one) complain about multiculturalism in Britain, but our society is, in spite of appearances, much more closely integrated than that in the US, never mind say, the Netherlands. Now look at the "social control & tolerance in the two "European" societies compared to the USSA, where an atheist effectively cannot hold public office.
The channeling & controlling of children's violence that you write of is part of that control.
Now what?

237:

update on my post @ 223
Ireland to leagalise abortion ... I wonder how much last-dittch hysterical lying resistance the RC will try to put up?

238:

I would add to (or perhaps expand) that channelling and controlling comment, by mentioning the acceptibility and implicit (or explicit) promotion of violence as the preferred solution to conflict.

My perception (and I hasten to add that this is highly subjective and I don't have facts or figures to back it up) is that violence -- armed or unarmed -- is much more acceptable as a resolution to conflict in the US than it is in Europe. I would qualify this by saying that in my observation the acceptance of violence does vary wildly depending on the demographics of any particular group/region that you might look at.

239:

Para the last:-

1) You've obviously never spoken to a group of auto enthusiasts about the cost of auto insurance, or indeed, checked your premium following a "not at fault" auto accident. I've done both, and am highly dubious about the ability of insurers to calculate risk.

2) On what basis do you claim that multiple insurance policies increase risk at all, never mind in a manner proportional to the premiums levied? I'd submit that any risk caused by the physical presence of a firearm carrier is proportional to length of time that the firearm is carried for and not the locations etc (unless the gun under the counter of the shop is fact rather than USian videofilm maker myth). Even if it is fact, then I'd suggest that the carrier being "in retail" is the risk factor, and the owner of a small machine ship is a lower firearms risk, but probably carries higher insurance premiums due to liabilities insurances.

3) The potential destructiveness of firearms is a much more complex matter than just magazine size and rate of fire.

240:

I expect that the church will make some official objections (strongly worded), but will do so in such as to encourage protests and objections that can be attributed to private citizens and interest groups that can be safely held at arms' length (and possibly cut loose at a later date, should the necessity arise). The RC church may be down but it is not out, and it has a survivor's instinct when cornered.

241:

Spent rounds are entirely legal in the UK, but I didn't take any souvenirs; probability of powder residues adhering to them is high, and I had to go through several stages of airport security to get home.

242:

Re: On what basis do you claim that multiple insurance policies increase risk at all, never mind in a manner proportional to the premiums levied?

I'm not saying that multiple insurance policies increase risk. In fact, I'm saying the opposite - that ownership of a gun should impact all of that individual's various insurance policies/premiums.

The intent of my suggestion is to come up with a mechanism that would be sale-able to the U.S. policy makers and public. Policy makers in Congress seem warm to any idea that makes money, i.e., insurers, and which allows them to hold onto their toys. This group also has the financial wherewithal to pay such premiums.

Insurers' ability to calculate risk can be scrutinized: actuarial reports are available. Because insurance premiums tend to trickle down and affect everyone, this approach would give non-gun owners more leverage in their economic argument for reining in gun ownership.

243:

And if you keep the gun together, ready for use?

244:

I only mention this because I saw a story this morning about how the AR-15 is the "most popular gun in the US". Which brought to mind what I heard as a kid living on an Army post in the late 70s, a few GIs talking about how when the first M-16s were issued they got a bit nervous when they saw the word Mattel stamped on the plastic bits, and when the barrels would start to droop after extended firing.

And I keep commenting here despite the fact that I Hates Guns!
So this ought to be it from me, on this topic.

245:

Contrarywise - You simply suggested doubling a gun owner's other insurance premiums, making no attempt to consider actual risk factors. That may be acceptable to the rent-seeking aspect of insurers, but is clearly at odds with any attempt to claim that insurers consider risk.

246:

I don't know the answer to that. What I do know is that it would take about 30 minutes to clean, grease as appropriate and re-assemble the parts (I've done it with life-size ABS replicas), which is long enough to prevent a hot-blood shooting in most cases, but not to prevent the sort of cold-blooded massacre that prompted the original posting.

247:

Re: Ability to calculate risk vis-a-vis gun ownership ...

Source article: [excerpt]

Dr. Arthur L. Kellermann, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.E.P.

Kellermann is well known for his research on the epidemiology of firearm related injuries and deaths. In a 1995 interview, Kellermann saw firearm and other injuries not as random, unavoidable acts but as preventable public health priorities: "I grew up around guns. My dad taught me how to shoot when I was eleven or twelve years old. Firearms are fascinating pieces of equipment. I enjoy the sport of shooting, although I rarely shoot anymore. However, as a clinician, as someone who is committed to emergency medicine, it is equally evident to me that firearm violence is wreaking havoc on public health."[5]

In this polarized debate, Kellermann’s studies quantifying the risk of mortality associated with gun ownership attracted criticism from pro-gun organizations and individuals.[6] The National Rifle Association of America contends that Dr Kellermann “severely understates defensive uses of guns,” and that his “conclusions provide anti-gunners propaganda.”[7] Pro-gun groups claim that Kellermann’s findings are somehow linked to the June 1996 Republican-led decision of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee to strip US$2.6 million from the budget of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control – even though Kellerman's were published years before.

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In case I haven't made myself clear: how well any particular insurance company is able to calculate risk of any form is not the point of my argument.

248:

"And if you keep the gun together, ready for use?"

I find it impossible to say. There are too many variables.

Conservation quality will vary greatly depending on whether you keep it out in the open or in some kind of very dry airtight locker and will also vary depending on humidity and temperature variations in your region. Humidity will destroy metal in the short to medium term and temperature variations will destroy everything in the long term. Conservation quality will also vary greatly depending on the types of metals used and on their coatings, all of which vary from one manufacturer to another or even from one manufacturer from year to year. Finally, conservation will depend on just how fast an owner can preserve it from silly accidents like roof leaks.

As an example, these formerly excellent machine guns from Herstal (Belgium) were kept out in the open for a few days after an helicopter crash. Now they're in a museum, with BER tags on them, to illustrate what it means when a weapon is judged Beyond Economical Repair by an armorer.

https://plus.google.com/u/0/114212653586870031290/posts/UCHyqnJSPtu

Look at corrosion in a variety (lots of metal, little metal, grade of metal etc.) of large metal gardening tools with wood or plastic handles and also woodworking tools if you want practical indications without the emotional tinge that weapons bring forth.

249:

[British society is] much more closely integrated than that in the US

I'm not surprised. The US covers a lot more geography, for one thing. A lot of practices that work well in Hawaii don't work in Alaska and vice versa.

Also, the UK is something like 92% white, and immigrants for the last few centuries have been so few that they don't have much choice but to assimilate. American immigrants came in enough quantity to bring much of their own culture and keep to their own. There are few areas in the UK where a white English speaker would feel out of place, but quite a few in the US.

Now what?

More of the same but with niftier toys, probably.

250:

Since I haven't actually stated my position properly:-

1) As matters stand, making significant changes in USian gun law will require at minimum a new Supreme Court judgement re-interpreting the 2nd, and preferably a new amendment repealing and replacing the 2nd (and good luck getting that ratified).
2) I have no specific objection to the ownership, and even responsible use, of military grade weaponry by private individuals.
3) I strongly suspect that most, if not all, spree killings are perpetrated by individuals who are mentally ill (and not necessarily with weapons that they own).

Accordingly it follows that the only fair action to take is actually to substantially improve (particularly but not exclusively USian) mental healthcare.

251:

Fair enough. The general question was, effectively, "if we institute a ban on the manufacture of new civilian assault weapons and actually make it stick, how long before the law makes the problem of assault weapons go away?"

It appears we can't answer that. Probably the half life of the current generation of guns is around a decade, but there's a long tail on that, as the careless lose their guns to improper maintenance, but the properly trained keep them in proper storage.

However, it doesn't look like a good solution, even inadvertently.

By the way, I'm pretty much with paws4thot. The real issue here is that America is terribly inefficient at dealing with mental illness, and we've been systematically getting worse, what with increasing the costs of training new mental health workers (cf: student loans), defunding hospitals (which can be both good and bad), restricting the amount of insurance that can go to mental health, and being reluctant as a society to talk about mental health issues, or take them seriously, until tragedies happen.

I should point out that America is scarcely alone with this problem. Google "running Amok" if you want to see another version. Interestingly, amoks typically kill around 10-12 people before being killed, a number which really should register when we look at how many people typically die in a mass shooting.


252:

Expansion - My "particularly but not exclusively USian" caveat reflects the apparent availability of both weapons and ammunition, rather than being primarily a comment on USian mental healthcare.

253:

The interaction between the war on drugs and gun violence is an interesting one. In Canada, gangsters will have steady access to compact semiautomatics with large magazines as long as such guns are easy to obtain and marijuana illegal in the US. So even if we decided that we wanted to ban handguns, such a ban could not be as effective as in the UK. The tactical crowd in the US seem worried about armed police bursting into their homes searching for drugs (or home invaders dressed like police doing the same).

The public health problem of reducing murders, suicides, and accidental killings is a tough one, and one country cannot set policy in a vacuum. The high rate of all kinds of violence in the US does imply that, as you say, access to weapons is not the only problem (although it probably makes the problem worse!)

254:

In response to the original post, I'd suggest as a first step, installing thick classroom doors that can be locked from the inside - it works for airliner cockpits. And I'd suggest some gun control, although I haven't got any new ideas; I worry that the genie is out of the bottle as far as the US is concerned.

For the Israeli spree shooter, google "Baruch Goldstein". It's very depressing.

The answer to "where did countries with conscription store weapons" is "it depends".

The nations close to the likely route of any Warsaw Pact attack tended to encourage the home storage of their reservists' personal weapons. The Yugoslavs and Albanians did something similar, but it meant that the civil war was far more brutal than otherwise. You could almost argue the second amendment in much of the former Yugoslavia...

Norway, Sweden, and Denmark organised their reserve units so that Home Guard units defended their own home area (village, or city blocks). Typically, there was a requirement to keep the ammunition in a sealed packet (with the seal inspected occasionally) and a strong understanding that the Police and courts would get Really, Really, Serious (tm) about any solving and punishing burglary where a weapon was stolen. Any aspiring criminal realised that taking the gun was bad for business.

There was also a perception of social standing that came from being a reservist; you were only allowed to keep your weapon at home if everyone thought you were sensible enough to do so, and it (apparently) carried a measure of respect within the community. AIUI, after the Cold War ended, most of these countries pulled the personal weapons back into more centralised storage. Except Switzerland...

I was at a presentation by a Danish Home Guard officer in the early 90s; their experience was driven by being well-defended in 1914 (and left alone as being too much trouble) as opposed to being rather less well-defended in 1939 (and conquered quite quickly). IIRC, there were three cases in the previous forty-odd years where a personal weapon had been used in a crime.

Like Charlie, I went to a school with a CCF, and an armoury full of obsolete weapons. The driver to the relatively easy-going attitude to military weapons was that everyone was familiar with them (conscription only finished in the very early 1960s); the change came from the realisation in the early 1970s that the IRA was likely to use them as an easy source of weaponry... as they were MoD weapons, the MoD promptly restricted their storage to armouries that met all of the security requirements; thick doors, alarms wired to the police, separation of ammunition from weapons.

As an officer in the Territorial Army, there were only a handful of people who had access to the weapons; and a different handful who had access to the limited ammunition we held on site. I couldn't get to either unannounced, and I'd signed for them all. Although you'll be happy? to know that the Cadet Forces now have a rifle that is a semiautomatic version of the current service rifle (they've just replaced the pig's ear that they made of a bolt-action version of same). Google L98A2.

By contrast, as target rifle shooters, my wife and I have the facility to store both rifle and ammunition at home; every couple of years, the Police visit us for a chat, and we try to reassure them that we are vaguely normal. Even our neighbours and colleagues weren't too shocked by our eventual confession that those things we were putting in the boot of the car weren't guitar cases, and after a decade of living or working next to us it attracts no comment. Perhaps it's the fact that we only compete in the Olympic form of the sport (0.22LR is as big as it gets), and have a knee-jerk reaction to shooting at a target that is anything other than a black circle on a white background...

255:

Restricting magazine size in the era of 3D plastic printers will not work.

256:

You'd be surprised. I've had hands swabbed and bags checked in Australia while returning from a two-week competition during which I spent every day on the range, and fired a lot of ammunition. I'd got my spotting scope in hand luggage (to prevent breakage; it normally sits six inches to the left of the rifle during firing), and thought it sensible to point out when they checked me that I was very likely to test positive, and that I had a very good reason.

The machine didn't even beep. I suspect that either it was looking for a rather different set of compounds, or that our rifles were stunningly good at burning all available powder.

257:

Although you're quite right, even an empty case appearing in the hold luggage will attract unwanted attention at the X-ray machine...

258:

paws @ 248
... most, if not all, spree killings are perpetrated by individuals who are mentally ill, and not necessarily with weapons that they own.
Which is exactly what has happened in this particular recent case, isn't it?
It didn't help that,by my estimate at any rate, the actual gun(s) owner wasn't too sane an individual, either!

Incidentally, does "mentally ill" include .. "Teenage male, not properly socilised, who does not realise that he too can be hourt ir even killed" ??
Because in the UK, we've definitely got a (long-tail again) minority of these - usually in inner-cities, usually in small gangs, usually associated with "drugs".

Which brings up another question, where we are making the exact same mistake as the US, for probably the same reaons [ A combination of semi-religious brainwashing & huge corporate interests ] in keeping the futile & lost "awr on drugs" going.
Why is this futile course still being followed?
For furriners: We have just had a House of Commons committee report saying: "War on Drugs lost, time to try something new"
Little Nick Clegg our twee deputy PM saying same thing - followed by outright, complete unthinking rejection by Camoron & the official guvmint line.
Errr .....

259:

Stuff like this keeps getting mentioned.... it confuses me.

give them ongoing psych testing
Also, I end to disagree with the notion hat some of the killers were mentally ill. I'd say they all are, to some degree. Sane people do not commit murder. By sane I mean clinically, not legally
I strongly suspect that most, if not all, spree killings are perpetrated by individuals who are mentally ill (and not necessarily with weapons that they own).
The real issue here is that America is terribly inefficient at dealing with mental illness

About about 1 in 4 adults suffer a diagnosable mental illness of some kind in any one year in the US. About 1 in 17 people in the US suffer from a serious mental illness (source http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml).

There were 10,100 firearm homicides in the US in 2005 (source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States).

If you could magically stop everybody with a diagnosable mental illness, or a serious mental illness, from owning a gun it would certainly affect that figure.

It would effect it by the same amount as randomly removing that number of people from the non-mentally ill gun owning population.

We have lots of evidence that the mentally ill are not more likely to commit violence than the general population.

They are, however, much more likely to be the subject of violence by others.

See http://psychcentral.com/archives/violence.htm, http://m.xojane.com/issues/for-the-last-time-stop-conflating-violence-and-mental-illness, and http://mentalhealthcop.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/newtown/ for some pointers.

There is, for example, no evidence that I am aware of (beyond media speculation) that the recent shooter in Connecticut was mentally ill. He was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome - but that's (a) not a mental illness and (b) not associated with violence in any way.

The police are using words like "motive" and I suspect the full story will not come out for a while.

Please, please fix the mental health institutions in the US. But do it because they are inhumane and cruel. Not to fix gun crime. Because it won't.

The mentally ill are not the cause of US gun crime.

Please look somewhere else for an explanation.

(If you want to stop a group having weapons - try men. 88% of firearm homicides vs women's 12% - source http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/homicide/gender.cfm).

260:

Well, you're right. We do have to narrow the subject somewhat to spree killings, however. Hopefully, most of us realize that, even if all mass killers are clinically insane, they're only a tiny fraction of the mentally ill population.

However, personally, I was thinking of four recent shootings (Gabby Giffords, Virginia Tech, Aurora Colorado, and ostensibly Newtown) where the shooter was either diagnosed as mentally ill (Arizona), under psych treatment but status unconfirmed (Aurora), or presumed ill (Virginia Tech and Newtown). In all these cases, people noticed something was seriously wrong with the shooter long before the shooting, but no one took effective steps to intervene.

Obviously, there's a huge question about how many false positives would happen if people took threats seriously and sent disgruntled people to the proverbial looney bin. There are also serious questions about privacy, if we're all reporting each other for every bad mood. To pick one example, grad school would become almost unendurable under such a regime.

Still, if I knew someone was plotting a mass shooting, what would I do? About the only way I could get that person under official control quickly would be to provoke them into attacking me before they carry out their plan, and hope I survive the attack. This isn't good enough.

261:

After some thought:-

Not all psychological disorders lead one to be a murderer, never mind any form of mass murderer. For instance, high functioning sociopaths can actually be useful members of society.

Possibly, but at least most gangbangers only kill other gangbangers (at least by intent rather than from desperately bad trigger, muzzle and fire discipline).

We are in agreement on the "was on drugs" though; see earlier comments about the 18th Amendment to the USian Constitution.

262:

Since you're quoting me (the 2nd--which I badly mangled) I'll point out that I said nothing about Psych evaluations. I know such tests are not reliable and can be cheated, if one was so inclined. The term Mental Illness covers way too many conditions to be really meaningful on its own, which is in part how you can consider a quarter of the population to be so.

I was simply responding to the idea that someone who could commit these acts would be considered "Normal*". I was not talking about Gun Crime, but specifically Murder, which, In My Opinion, is not something that supposedly normal people do.

*As my mother (with her Psychology degree) would say "There's no such thing as Normal, only Situationally Appropriate."
And I wish I could remember the term that Charlie used in "Rule 34" to describe the Toymaker.

263:

The other issue is whether a "psych test" (as already mandated for guns) is any better at decreasing gun crime than making certain types of guns illegal. This is a relative question, because neither solution is all that good.

Still, AFAIK, some gun shop owners will refuse to sell to people they regard as criminals or troubled. This is an untrained person making an intuitive decision about someone else's mental status, and acting on it without regulation. Is this really the best we can do? Is the answer really that psychology is useless in determining who is a real threat to others, we can't effectively identify any of the people who will use guns to commit homicides, and the best we can do is to limit how many bullets they can shoot without a reload? While I'm not a big fan of psychology, this strikes me as a bit too bleak an assessment.

264:

I skimmed your Wikipedia link (after fixing it). It doesn't actually address the point of mine which you quoted which was specifically about the relevant commonality of spree killing amongst the "mentally ill" and the "sane".

You are most assuredly correct in the general case assertion that the "mentally ill" are not more violent than the overall population; I'm less convinced that you're correct regarding the specific subset of homicides that are the work of spree killers.

265:

As someone else pointed out, since the 3D printer has been invented, limits on magazine sizes probably have more to do with the strength of the shooter's wrists than with having a law that says "thou shalt not make a magazine that holds more than $natural rounds".

266:

Something that surprised me (if true) was that I heard that the "illegal" bit of an AR15 is the lower receiver, not the upper and barrel. Can anyone confirm this?

267:

It's the bit with the serial number on, and therefore the bit that officially identifies the weapon.

268:

Then that's why the plan to print an AR15 lower caused so much fuss in the USA. Strangely, over here it would probably be legal.

269:

After a bit of research, the potentially illegal bit is the lower receiver yes. Whether actual illegality occurs will depend on the owner's residence, and on whether or not the (presumed originally civilian and only capable of single shot or semi-auto fire) weapon has been modified to allow full auto (and possibly but not necessarily burst) fire.

270:

Proving that not only does the MoD learn from mistakes, they learn from those of other government departments.
(One of the IRA's innovations in the War Of Independence was that "rural station of RIC" translated quite well to "badly-secured armoury."

271:
Youth (age 12 to 17 years) accused of committing a violent offence are more likely than adults to use a firearm.
I wonder how much of this propensity is due to the missing "got in a fight in the pub" segment of violent offences?
272:

... using personal insurance coverage to reduce the attractiveness of firearms ownership/usage...

That's a very libertarian approach to the problem: allow everything and invoke the supposed infallibility of the "free market" to properly put a price on externalities. I therefore dislike it already. But politics is the art of the possible, and if the point is not so much to properly put a price on the damage that gun violence does to the fabric of society, as to discourage gun ownership to the largest extent that a majority of the U.S. political establishment can still be found in favor of, then choosing a libertarian approach probably has merit.

... Anyone who does own/use/have access to a gun would have to register it with their insurance provider. I would suggest a minimum of doubling the insurance premium paid across the board, i.e., on home, auto, life and business for owners of the most basic gun, because weapons are portable and the insurer could make the case that a gun-related crime could in fact happen within any of these scenarios.

Suppose you do want to use the cost of insurance as the deterrent to gun ownership, then making that cost proportional to whatever insurance cover the prospective gun owner already has is a dumb way to go about it. You want to frame the debate so nobody with much political clout will want to take the side of those who would be hit hardest by the cost of insurance. So try not to make it unreasonably expensive for the billionaire owners of multiple mansions who aren't that passionate about guns but have a few at their hunting lodge. And you definitely don't want to create a loophole where people who have no other insurance don't see any cost of being careless with guns.

Mandatory liability insurance specifically for guns is a much better approach than doubling unrelated insurance premiums. Make it a completely separate insurance pool, so that the premiums go specifically to paying out liability claims for shooting incidents, plus some margin for the insurers. Allow the insurers to lower the premiums for those gun owners who do the sort of things that are mandated in other countries (like keeping their guns locked up and separate from the ammunition, or taking gun safety classes), and to raise the premiums for guns that are statistically more likely to be involved in incidents. If that pits some subsets of gun owners against others, so much the better. Make the insurers collectively liable for (or make them contribute to a pool large enough to cover) the sum total of liability claims resulting from shooting incidents and crimes involving a gun that was uninsured or underinsured, and leave the insurers and gun owners to bicker among themselves about who ends up footing the bill and who can get away with paying less than their share.

Personally, I'd still vastly prefer proper gun control laws, but I can believe that getting something like this passed in the US in a form that might actually be moderately effective is more likely than passing real gun control legislation that isn't so full of loopholes it is meaningless.

273:

I am not so sure. Having to download the plans, buy the springs and any other metal parts, print off some magazines, and risk them jamming all make it harder to carry out a mass shooting than in a hypothetical country where anyone could buy whatever weapons they want to. Just requiring guns to be stored locked and unloaded can discourage impulsive shootings.

274:

One of the "CSI" crime shows recently had an episode where it turned out the killer was a hitman who used single-use 3D printed handguns.


myself@260: And I wish I could remember the term that Charlie used in "Rule 34" to describe the Toymaker.

Non-Neurotypical--I think that was it. Wikipedia says that Neurotypical is used in connection with autism, so not quite what I had in mind. It seems the term is used to separate certain conditions from Neurological/Psychiatric conditions connected to mental illness. Well, I learned something new.

275:

"Neurotypical" is used by nuerodiversity advocates. While they're mostly autism-spectrum-disorder sufferers, advocates etc, there are occasional outliers...

276:

I would suggest a minimum of doubling the insurance premium paid across the board, i.e., on home, auto, life and business for owners of the most basic gun...

Such a plan would certainly move legal gun ownership away from the impoverished masses and towards the privileged wealthy. While some would welcome that, I'm not sure you want to present it that way.

277:

Also the USSA’s constitutional right to bear arms, refers to militias (civil guards’ equivalent) NOT private citizens, as such … but it’s been twisted.

Here's the text:
As passed by the Congress:
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.

As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:
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.

I think most of us over here will accept that "people" are private citizens. But there's a LOT of debate on how that ties to "militia"

Note that it doesn't help that the sentence is a grammatical mess. And there are two sets of commas to interpret.

278:

The US has the largest military in the world by far.

I think I'd agree with most powerful. Largest in terms of body count I think not.

279:

So someone who was armed could have taken him down with some luck.

Maybe. While I feel the college shooting could maybe have been stopped if a few folks had picked up their desks and charged the guy I can easily see someone shooting back in a (was it dark?) theater creating more havoc than helping.

280:

Yes, it would be a bad idea to present it in the way you just did, but it would be a great idea to do it. That is to say, to link insurance obligations to any firearms purchase

The vast majority of firearms-related deaths in the US aren't caused by spree killings or by criminals but by relatively normal citizens who get into family squabbles and shoot a spouse/son/father/mother in the wrong part of the body in the heat of anger or shoot a neighbour/tourist/farmworker in a case of mistaken identity.

And those citizens are, for the most part, not rich persons. Rich persons are used to reaching for their lawyers, not their pistols. Courts of law are very present in their minds. If they do reach for their pistols they are likely to think (or be reminded by spouse) that if they wound their spouse they'll be in court for the rest of their lives. If they kill the spouse instead it might be less trouble but it will still be bothersome and costly.

People who are not rich don't think about this so now they just go "get out of here you bastard/bitch or I'll shoot" BANG. Going at them by the way of gradual rates of insurance (with lower rates if you have a gun locker, trigger locks, alarms, etc)would be partly discouraging but it would also make them more conscious of the money involved, in a gradual fashion.

281:

Anyone with a knowledge of chemistry at undergraduate level can probably make a decent bomb and some really nasty chemical weapons.

Yes. But there's that pesky issue of testing them. There are always practical details that get missed when following cookbooks and other recipes.

Of course I might still have a book on making home made rocket from the 50s. Really interesting stuff. Today just inquiring about the chemicals mentioned would likely get you a visit from the FBI. I haven't seen that book in years. Likely got left at my parents when I moved out then tossed at some point in a move of theirs.

282:

Getting untrained people to work on "gut instinct" is about as good as you'll get, but it's still pretty good. The problem is that no Doctor is going to sign off on anything other than "I have no evidence against X" - understandably, they are twitchy about professional indemnity. Given that the area local to OGH (Lothian and Borders police) has nearly 30,000 firearm and shotgun licenses, renewed every five years, that's a lot of business.

Currently, the renewal process requires you to get two respectable members of the public (one a club official, one not to be connected with shooting) to write a witness statement saying that they know of no reason why you should not be granted access to firearms; and an interview with a licensing officer. It seems to be a decent enough system.

Thomas Hamilton (spree murderer of children in Dunblane) was reported to the police as unsuitable by two different gun clubs, and by two different firearms licensing officers; unfortunately, he was known to the police to be extremely awkward / litigious. AIUI, he'd already made accusations related to the shutdown of the boys' clubs he ran, against an officer that required Central Region police to put said officer on paid leave for most of a year; the senior officer who over-rode the recommendations of two of his own policemen presumably thought that letting him keep his pistols was the easier option.

According to a coach I know, he'd offered to help coach the target rifle club at my school; he and the club organiser met him, but felt he was a bit strange; nothing you could put your finger on. So they politely declined his offer. As for comments about "hundred year rule" and various conspiracy theories, my understanding is that the sealed files are the detailed reports and photos of the crime scene and victims; to spare the feelings of the families.

283:

As to the arm the principals comments.

About 100K public schools in the US. (We'll skip the private ones for now.)

A decent "real" handgun will run a few $100 each. Ammo. A safe for it at night and other times. Training time and costs. We're looking at $2000 per year easy.

So let's take $200,000,000 per year doing this or put it where else and save way more lives?

And I bet the true costs are double or triple that with certifications, training time, firing range time, etc...

284:

If spent cases are illegal in the UK, there's an awful lot of us who are unaware of it, not to mention a number of businesses who are going to have a nasty shock - for instance, these guys.

Hmm. How would they treat the spent casing for a 155mm round I have in the closet. (In the US.) It was a commemorative round fired by my father in laws battery 50 years ago.

285:

USSA

Ok. What the extra "S" for?

I'm sure it's something snarky. :)

286:

and I had to go through several stages of airport security to get home.

I wanted to "shoot" my son after he put some firecrackers in a $100 soft sided suitcase and left them there for a week or so. When he took them out he said they had broken and powder spilled out. He asked if it would be a problem when traveling.

Thud thud thud. (Head banging on desk.)

287:

David L @ 283
Originally a Beatles song ...
"Back in the USA"
Which has the refrain (IIRC) ...
Back in the USA, back in the USS_AH!

Now usually taken to refer to the "security" measures imposed on US citizens & even more on visitors, to no good effect whatsoever, & their alternative internal controls on people, especially dangerous thinkers & atheists.
And, of course the neo-colonial behaviour of said state, in parallel to that of the Union (of) Soviet Socialist Republics' similar past behaviour to neighbouring states.

288:

But what about the geographic parts?

Are there any new ones?

If not, can you come up with something better than this?

"Well, the Texas girls really knock me out, they leave the East behind, and New York girls make me sing and shout, that Georgia's always on my my-my-my mind"

289:

As a cool paperweight. "Attracts attention" is not the same as "forbidden", it's just that most people can do without the hassle. So long as it can't go bang, it's OK.

As for being a 155mm case? Unusual, I'd check the calibre. Most 155mm is separately-loaded, i.e. bag charges (the shell alone comes in at over 40kg, so you don't want to make it bulky and nose-heavy to boot). Are you sure it isn't 105mm or 120mm?

291:

As I already said, there's no issue with expended or inerted ammo in the UK. One of my workmates has an inerted Browning 0.5" round on a plinth, as a paperweight.

292:

"Pick up desks and charge" won't work. Rifle (and even pistol) ammunition will go straight through without blinking. Even a nice thick wooden or steel door in a reinforced frame won't stop the bullets - but it will keep a person out.

Apologies to OGH for mention of the strange attractor. If you're truly curious, google "The Box o' Truth" for some empirical evidence.

293:

An interesting side-effect of the 3D printing thing is that it won't act as much of an enabler for the poor-impulse-control set, but it would make life much easier for organized cells of bampots planning a public atrocity.

I'm thinking here along the lines of what the 7/7 cell would have been able to do if they'd had cheap access to 3D printers able to work in metal and hard plastic; they spent quite some time planning, reconnoitering and organizing their atrocity, and probably had external training. (Specifically: a cell of suicide bombers hitting a city's transport infrastructure at rush hour could have killed considerably more people if they'd also carried automatic weapons, with their bombs on a dead man's handle so that they'd detonate as/when the attacker was taken down.)

294:

Again, when we start going down the "make the school more secure" route, we're talking about dealing with the symptom, not the problem.

Though I do agree, that subtle non-instrusive features like lockable heavy doors on each classroom are not generally excessive. My kids' school is currently in the process of increasing their security by ensuring that all external entrances are fitted with mag-locks, and will only be accessible during class hours to staff with a swipe card; the main front door is also to be locked during class hours, but as well as the swipe-card access system it will have a buzzer controlled from the admin office, which has line of sight to the door. These are, to my mind, sane measures in keeping a school secure during class hours (although, my kids' school is a very small campus with an already quite limited number of access points) -- more than this (and possibly the internal lockable doors) starts to get into "fortress school" territory.

295:

This led me to do a quick "thought experiment" about securing a school building. I used my old high school. It consists of some 75 classrooms, 2 gymnasia, 2 sports halls, 4 staff break rooms, a dining hall with adjacent kitchen, 4 offices and a number of toilets and store cupboards, for over 100 separate rooms across 3 buildings.

One building has at least 14 (may be more) doors, all but 3 having glass panels or being all glass, the second has 5 wood and glass doors and one steel roller door, and the 3rd (one of the sports halls) 2 wooden doors.

In the midst of this complex, there is a lawn bowling club with a private drive street access. However you cut it, securing this site is non-trivial.

296:

"Yes. But there's that pesky issue of testing them. There are always practical details that get missed when following cookbooks and other recipes."

Only the ignorant follow "cookbooks". Who do you think writes them? The 7/7 bombers made TATP or maybe HTMD with a very simple recipe and did not need to test it. The one thing you can guarantee is that if you can make a small quantity explode a large quantity is going to be no problem at all.

297:

Absolutely. The measures that I listed for my kids' school are primarily supposed to stop someone casually wandering onto the campus or into the main building and snatching a kid. To actually secure the whole site from an armed intruder intent on gaining access with the sole purpose of causing mayhem and death -- that would be nigh impossible (without turning the site into something that looked like a military base or prison). Living in NI through the 70's and 80's provided a *lot* of examples of how to go about securing public buildings and sites that were never designed to be secure -- there are no 100% effective approaches (without tearing down and rebuilding), and the more secure you want to make a site, the more instrusive the security becomes (which is a big issue when thinking of schools and little kids).

298:

"As for comments about "hundred year rule" and various conspiracy theories, my understanding is that the sealed files are the detailed reports and photos of the crime scene and victims; to spare the feelings of the families."

And that is normal procedure in cases of child murder?

299:

Actually, probably not a problem.
The oxidizer is most likely perchlorate, which the old "bomb sniffers" could not detect. Not sure about the newer ones.

300:

Blimey Stina, you do go for a variety of combat styles :-)

She's also into fantasy and SF (beware of the effects of Terry Pratchett, E.E Doc Smith and Arthur C Clarke on the young mind).

The Assassins guild seems to a sort of 1:1 scale role play with different teams and games organised every few weeks. Plastic knifes and swords, nerf guns and attack soft toys seem to feature in the weaponry.

Anyway this is off topic, so I'll stop now.

301:

Speaking of school safety, there's an interesting news article about US school attacks that were a) reported in the media and b) thwarted.

No one says this is comprehensive, but it lists 120 elementary to high school attacks that were squelched, apparently without injury. They range from internet threats to shoot up schools to one student holding another at gunpoint, and the principal talking him down.

This puts things like Newtown and Columbine in perspective. They appear to be the 1% (probably less) of attacks that slipped through, aberrations rather than norms. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't try harder, but it does mean that there's a reasonably good system in place already.

302:

I am noticing a few other topics I consider significant, that seem to be getting neglected in this thread (not that much of anyone is reading the bottom of the comments or -- soon -- a section of the page buried by other comments...)

First, in the context of arming teachers, there's the "school to prison pipeline" (see http://www.nyclu.org/schooltoprison/lookatsafety or do your own web searches). Routinely arming school teachers (or "school safety officers") would seem to be likely to amplify this effect.

Second, in the context of mental illness, there's the issue expressed by Thomas Szazs as "mental illness is a metaphor". The distinction between mental and physical illness is analogous to the difference between content and physical problems with media.

And, on a related note, there's been some news in recent years about police using something other than legislation or arrests to deal with public safety issues. I've read a lot about this, but the only thing I can find right now is http://www.baltimoresun.com/explore/baltimorecounty/news/ph-tt-violence-prevention-1123-20111115,0,2333639.story

303:

I agree. Crime prevention (of the boring, effective variety) is one of those things that, like public health, is both absolutely essential and hard for most people to support, because it's difficult to provide metrics of how effective it is. Still, I get sick of seeing schools treated more and more like prisons. Back in my day (a few decades ago), I was one of many students who carried a pocket knife and used it for things like sharpening pencils. There were no stabbings in any school I went to. The only knife injuries I ever saw were kids playing around with balisongs, trying to learn to open them fast, and cutting themselves (note that possession of a balisong is now a felony where I live).

Unfortunately, I don't think we can rewind this particular tape and go back to the good old days when things like knives and matches were normal carry items. Going forward, I'm also not sure how you de-armor prisons, just as I'm not sure how you get more non-violent criminals out of prison and back into normal life.

As for arming teachers, I still think they'd spend more time keeping their weapons out of the hands of inquisitive students than they ever would defending them.

304:

Yes. I've never measured it but 105 seems right. Which is just over 4". (Growing up in the US my mental reference are on inches not cm/mm.

305:

I didn't say it was a way for no one to get hurt. But 20 or 30 people on the floor waiting to be shot is a 100% loss rate. A small group charging him with desks or chairs might stop the shooter.

And yes I know that I don't know how if react if on the situation and don't look down on the ones who didn't fight back.

306:

Yes. But the only way to find out is to take a chance missing the last flight out from somewhere that is "not home" while TSA has a long talk with you. Basically that bag got turned into a junk carry bag.

307:

Blog note.

On my iPhone 4 w/iOS v5.0.1 when I hit reply I wind up somewhat centered about 1/3 down the comments. Scroll around a bit to find the comment of interest again and again hit reply and I wind up on the comment box.

308:

105mm is a reasonably common size for an artillery or tank shell. For instance various air-portable guns and howitzers, M60 series MBTs except the M60-A2 which had a 155mm gun/missile launcher, most British Centurion/Chieftain series, Leopard 1 series (used by Canada amongst others)...

309:

Me too. Same behaviour, but on later iPhone model and iOS 6.0.2.

310:

Oh yes . It might also be possible to skip hiring a crooked gunsmith and just print the parts required to turn a legal semi-automatic into an automatic weapon. 3D printers also seem like they will reduce the local contacts required by a would-be mass murderer: just because something is available on the black market does not mean that a murderous lunatic knows where to get it and can convince the dealer to sell. We are very lucky that most would-be mass murderers are stupid and lazy ...

311:

Duh. 6.0.1 for me. Not 5.x

312:

I don't know if a sinter printed part would have the requisite strength, but you only need 1 piece to convert an AR15 from a semi-auto to a full auto. (QV about #260 et seq)

313:

I think it's more a case that most intelligent political dissidents are willing and able to engage in the [peaceful] political process.

Violence is usually shunned by smart political dissidents unless the incumbents aren't listening (e.g. South Africa under Apartheid, Israel right now wrt. Palestinians, most dictatorships ...) and there's a genuine popular base of support for insurgency. In which case, the incumbents had better watch out.

314:

Talking of erm "intelligent" guvmints ...
Very dangerous, unsettling news.
Apparently, Russian "Iskander" [ 9K720 / SS-36 STONE ] missiles have been landed at the Syrian port of Tartus.
A quick google confirms this to be so, see also Here - oh dear

Now what?
Deeply scary, especially iof Syria's other backers, the Iranians, get hold of any.
Putin is trying hios interal bullying tactics on outsiders, it would seem.
Um.

315:

That's a laugh - Putin interfering in Syria! Unlike the noble West whose only contribution has been cheering on the freedom loving Jihadists. [sarcasm]
As for Iran, one of the major reasons they have not been bombed yet is called Sunburn/Moskit which could be used to close the Straits of Hormuz indefinitely. What could Russia have to gain if the price of oil doubles overnight...?

316:

There's also the problem in that arming teachers may make things much, much worse. Recently, in New York, there was an armed robber who was escaping on a busy street (NYC is probably the only city in the US with pedestrian jams).

Nine bystanders were killed. Forensic examination, by the medical examiner's office, found that all the deaths were caused by the police.

These fatalities were caused by trained professionals in what is probably, overall, the most competent police agency in the US.

How can any sane person conclude that a random person with a gun would do better?

317:

Also, the right to bear arms, in 18th Century-speak, referred to the right to serve in the army as an officer. In many Continental countries, this was forbidden to people who were not armigerous (arms-bearing) classes. England did not have legal bars from commoners becoming officers, but France and Prussia, among others, did. The Founding Fathers, at least the better educated among them, were certainly aware of these restrictions.

Also, of course, the authors of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights would be aware that the English militias were used for internal security.

318:

Dirk @ 315
I said nothing at all about "the west" interfering in Syria, did I?
I susoect whatever, & whoever does it, it's going to be wrong.
What is certain is that Assad jnr is killing his "own" people in droves, & that that is, itself, not acceptable.
What worries me is Iranians or Hizbollah getting hold of "Iskanders" - to use on Israel ....

319:

So Assad is killing his own people in droves.
Meanwhile, the rebels aren't?
Doesn't it seem even slightly plausible that quite a percentage of the Syrian population supports Assad - maybe even a majority?

320:

"Arms", in the context you're referring to, means "armorial (aka, now more commonly, heraldic) insignia". It seems strange therefore, that having set out a basis for a commoners' republic, the Founding Fathers would enshrine a right to become ennobled in the Bill of Rights.

321:

Oddly enough, 9 bystanders were injured in New York at the Empire State building shooting back in August this year. In that case though, they were all expected to survive.

So there's been another incident, in the same city, in which the same number of bystanders were hit by the police, but this time they were killed?

Or have you got your details wrong?

322:

Nit-pick: the only person killed by the police was the original shooter, the bystanders were injured--3 from bullets, 6 by shrapnel.

Though your basic point stands.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/25/justice/new-york-empire-state-shooting/index.html

And on the subject of arming teacher. That's just insures that they'll be the first shot. And how long would it be before a teacher got fed up with a student and pulled it out threateningly, that alone would cause some re-thinking.

323:

Ah, you beat me to it. I'm pretty sure that's the only incident.
And I rushed my reply, again.

324:

I certainly know of one person who says he's Syrian and that he supports Assad; websearch for "Scandanavia and the World", and user name HawkOfSyria (capitalisation may not be correct). You may need an SATW account to get full access.

325:

Regarding 3D printing, I think it's a red herring. Consider that Pakistani gunsmiths with basic power tools regularly produce usable copies of the AK-series rifles. They aren't quite the real thing, but they aren't going to blow out after one shot either.

I would guess that building a good RepRap, creating the design files and fettling them, working up the right plastics and debugging the RepRap on those materials, and then fabbing the gun would require a skill set much less common than being a half decent toolmaker.

Now you're talking. An open-source lathe, mill, and drill for $150? For the price of three Bushmasters, you could start a factory.

326:

I had erred; the bystanders were injured, not killed, by police. Still, these are bystanders who were injured -- three directly and six indirectly -- by police.

My basic point -- that these bystanders were injured by mistake, by trained, full-time professional law enforcement personnel is a strong argument against expecting armed amateurs to deal effectively with a shooter. That they didn't die is the result of luck and medical skill.

Now, imagine if an armed citizen tries to "help" in a situation like this.

327:

Dirk @ 319
Just because one "side" in a conflict is evil means nothing about the other "side" at all.
Or had you not noticed your own logical fallacy?
I hold no brief, as you might expect for religious zealots opposing anything or anyone at all.
However, my original statement stands - Assad jnr is killing his "owm" people in droves. To which I can add Amnesty's comments on the transgressions of the rebels.
As for your last questiuon.
NO, not at all, or at any price, & I suggest you grow up, please, & stop trying to deliberately wind me up - I saw you palm that card!

328:

Too bad this came out late, but very relevant to the discussion that we've had: http://www.npr.org/2012/12/20/167694808/assault-style-weapons-in-the-civilian-market

329:

What does the term "assault-style weapon" actually mean? Is it like "Sports Utility Vehicle", in that it's a term used to describe an object of the $noun class which possesses none of the attributes suggested by the selected adjectives?

330:

Beats me, guvnor, but I suspect it is a combination of a legal definition that expired in 2004 and general tendency to visual panic.

For that old legal definition, see Wikipedia on the 1994 ban, which was not renewed. Some weapons, such as the AR-15, were banned by name. Others were banned if they had two or more specified features. There was also a ban on magazines of more than ten rounds capacity.

The key definition was that the weapon had to be semi-automatic. A rifle or pistol also had to have a detachable magazine. The Act banned new manufacture or import, with an exception for supply to the military and law enforcement agencies.

A Glock 17 would not be illegal, the standard 17-round magazine would be.

For rifles and shotguns, a folding stock and a pistol grip would be sufficient to be banned.

Some of the features seem cosmetic, but would almost certainly apply to military weapons. Others, such as pistol grips, are less purely military. Some weapons of more traditional looks, such as the SKS, still fell foul of the ban.

The stuff about "assault-style" weapons does at least make it plain that it's about stuff which looks like a modern army would use it. Which would hit at the fetishisation of guns. It's when you want to specify the details for a court that things get gnarly.

331:

Thanks for that. By my reading, as long as I had a low-capacity mag, and removed the bayonet mount and suppressor thread, a British SA80 assault rifle which is capable of single shot semi-auto, burst, and full auto fire would not actually be an "assault-style weapon"!!

332:

My take, listening to the interview with Mr. Diaz (which was the real point of the posting, not that it matters), was that he categorizes problematic guns as the following:

1. Pistols sold to the military, that are sold to American civilians unaltered. Particularly problematic in this category are guns like the FN 5.7, which was marketed to the Military-Industrial Complex as a "counter-terrorism" weapon, but which is designed (guns+rounds) to shoot through bullet-proof vests.

2. Sniper rifles, up to 50 caliber, which are sold to civilians unaltered (news to me).

3. Assault rifles. These are, in Mr. Diaz' definition, military rifles with detachable magazines that can be switched to shoot full auto. The military tries to get their soldiers to shoot semi-auto, as it's far more accurate and less wasteful. In the heat of battle, full auto spray and pray is the tactic many soldiers use.

Note that, for guns in categories 1 and 2, the same guns are sold to the military and to the public.

Category 3 assault rifles can't be sold to the public, but "Assault-style" weapons are sold to the public. The only difference between these and assault rifles is that "assault style" rifles only shoot semi-auto. This is not much of a difference (note that semi-auto is the military's preferred shooting style), but it gets them around older laws against selling machine guns to unlicensed civilians.

Hope this helps. The more interesting point of this interview is how thoroughly the NRA has been owned by firearms manufacturers, and how that has affected legislation. For example, although the ATFE and CDC both collect data on gun deaths, and which guns are used in which crimes, the NRA got a Congresscritter from Kansas to block both of them from publishing these data (through a rider on budget bills that has been passed every year since 2003). This is a little bit like the cigarette industry suppressing data on lung cancer, and I'm glad it's getting some publicity now.

333:

A 37 minute interview with more or less anyone who's pushing a political agenda (and that's what gun control is, particularly in the USA) comes under tl;dr even if I've heard of the interviewee and think I'll agree his points.

334:

The stuff about "assault-style" weapons does at least make it plain that it's about stuff which looks like a modern army would use it.

Yes, this. In the media these terms are used to mean "scary looking gun," with little or no connection to the terminology really used. (Many readers will have heard someone call their monitor the computer; it's about as accurate in the firearms field.) There's some reasonable worry about the Tactical Teds who want something that looks exciting - and in this I'll exclude veterans who want a copy of the rifle they trained on, which is a reasonable way to choose your gear.

There doesn't seem to be a simple way to keep morons out of trouble; if there were, the hour after the pubs close would be a lot quieter.

335:

Wow, talk about staying deliberately ignorant. I won't start with the derogatory expletives, but give the man a fair hearing before you trumpet your superior ignorance. I kicked that to the list because I actually learned something from listening, not because I was trying to advance a gun control argument. The NRA's "new ideas" (putting armed guards at every school) certainly make more sense if their agenda is selling guns, rather than promoting gun safety and gun culture.

Anyway, going under the "assault-style" weapon rule, your British SA80 assault rifle is an assault weapon, not because of the suppressor, bayonet lug, or magazine capacity, but because it can fire fully auto. If you happen to think this is a distinction with very little difference, you're agreeing with Mr. Diaz. All he's doing is separating which guns can be legally sold in the US to civilians, and which cannot. AFAIK, assault-style weapons are sold with things like flash suppressors (mentioned by Mr. Diaz on the AR-15), and I don't think a bayonet lug is illegal either. Certainly, large capacity magazines are perfectly legal in the US.

336:

A few comments from a USA'ian who is originally from Canada and kept the "guns are bad" attitude well into college until I became a Rand-spouting, Libertarian voting nutjob:

The gun-promoting crowd in the US is very diverse. Though there is still the left-over "the darkies are going to get me" person around, like most other generational shifts, this doesn't apply much any more, and where it does, it is very localized. Most of what would be considered modern gun control laws were put in place after the Civil War of 1865 in order to prohibit ex-slaves from getting hold of weapons, but allowing "good" people to still do so. Most gun-rights advocates have realized this and actively point out the racist historical roots of gun control in this country. Though the after-effects of institutionalized racism still exist in the US, there are very few people who are consciously racist here. Even in the Republican party, which as a fluke currently has more non-white/racial-minority congressmen at the moment.

Please don't attack the character or motives of those who promote gun rights or gun ownership. Yes, enjoying the making of small holes in paper at a long distance is in many ways a silly hobby, but that also describes golf, too. Enjoying "tactical shooting" sports like IPSC or IDPA might be strange, but so is paying to cheer for a football team. The occasional gentile chiding isn't a problem, but neither makes people mentally ill.

Preparing for a disaster (preper/survivalist) doesn't inherently make somebody crazy, either. The US has generally more extreme weather than Europe (esp. the UK). Since most produce is trucked via just-in-time delivery methods, one solid snow could shut down most food deliveries for days. Likewise, we're more likely to suffer from earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes, all of which have substantial temporary negative impacts on logistics.

In the US, there are many different trade-offs. For example, the current discussions are focusing on mass-shootings and how to deal with them. This is a perfectly reasonable discussion to be having. However, it is not the only firearms issue which matters in the US. Most people who are using firearms for defensive purposes are doing so against one or two attackers in an obvious setting (eg. store owner being robbed, person being attacked on the street at night, alone). In these cases there are minimal bystanders, the motives of the attackers is clear, etc. Making it more difficult for people to obtain and carry weapons in order to reduce mass shootings also makes it harder for people to carry weapons to defend themselves. I'm not arguing for one or the other, just pointing out that it isn't strictly "obvious" what the answer is as there are additional considerations.

Megan McCardle had a good column with references which addresses many of the issues put forth here.

One thought that comes to mind is a recent study which showed that people are generally more supportive of social/welfare programs in homogeneous populations. That is, you see more of yourself in those less fortunate and so are more likely to support them. I wonder if that same attribute results in reduced violence as well.

There are currently more people killed every year in the US being beaten to death with bare hands than with rifles. Though this doesn't diminish the issue of people being shot with rifles, it does show that there may be other areas to consider which have a better lives saved/$ spent return.

In the US, something like 2/3 of gun murders are directly related to the drug trade. It seems to me that we could reduce the murder rate substantially by legalizing a lot of drugs, if the murder rate is the concern.

In the US, a large number of those murdered by firearms have already been convicted of felonies themselves. I don't want to demean those who have set themselves on a straight path, but it is also possible that these people were continuing to show poor judgment and were in a situation which made them more likely to be shot. (Perhaps bad dealing drugs after a conviction).

337:

I won't start with the derogatory expletives
Firstly, that's big of you. ;-)

, but give the man a fair hearing
Secondly, and more importantly, I reached the conclusion that he was going to push a gun control agenda based on the article and associated quotes.

338:

@335
"Certainly, large capacity magazines are perfectly legal in the US. " Depends on what state you're in.
I was researching the retroactivity of the newly proposed New York law outlawing any gun capable of holding more than 7 rounds (such as the currently legal M1 Garand), and saw a bunch of material about how large capacity magazines had been outlawed in California. At first there was a requirement to disable them so they couldn't hold more than a certain number of rounds, then they were just outright illegal. According to a poster on a site I don't have a link for.

The NRA have systematically opposed any brakes on gun proliferation, so now there are so many guns out there that armed guards everywhere actually IS a sensible (though not fiscally viable) solution given the reality. It shouldn't be, but it is. Nothing succeeds like success.

Another interesting item is something I saw on CNN this morning. They interviewed a legislator from Tennessee that the NRA ensured lost her next election because she had turned from supporting them to opposing them on a law denying property owners the right to decide who could bring guns on their land. It seems the right to bear arms (wherever you like) trumps property rights and free speech.

339:

Para 4 - I don't see that this involves "dirty tricks" by the NRA as I suspect she would like us to believe; they'd be well within their rights (USian law) to write to all their members in Tennessee saying "Ms X has reversed her position on $law. If this concerns you, you may wish to consider which candidate you vote for in the forthcoming election, and talk to your friends and neighbours on the subject".

340:

Iranians getting SS-26 STONE isn't as worrying as you might think; they're very accurate, but that accuracy depends on having timely and accurate intelligence on the target. In effect, they are either limited to known fixed (and so presumably strategic) targets; and thus trigger a strategic response. Or they are used to guarantee a hit on a protected population centre, and thus trigger a strategic response. Neither appears to make sense.

Now, if they got their hands on the latest versions of S-300V or S-400 systems, then they would arguably be able to provide a viable air defence for their nuclear programme. If they got their hands on the latest Russian hypersonic anti-ship missiles as well, they could threaten to dominate the Persian Gulf (the Iranians have already bought some Kilo-class submarines, but the US Navy has now spent time training against such using a rented Swedish submarine; Swedish mixed and conscript SSK crews proving their skills to apparently impressive and worrying effect).

I must confess that the NRA proposal for armed guards for schools sounds daft. I know that my suggestion for sturdy doors on classrooms is expensive, but it strikes me that there is no single solution to the threat. The nutters will always seek a soft target; that doesn't mean you don't bother trying to protect the targets. I don't see why defence should be limited to "after the nutter has the weapon and has decided to act" - I'm an active target shooter, but I do question civilians holding non-obsolete military / paramilitary weapons. When I retired from the Army, I stopped aiming at people-shaped targets; why would I want to restart? Profiling potential nutters seems like a possible solution, but that runs into all sorts of civil liberties problems. Firearm licensing seems like an obvious solution.

My problem with the whole "right to self-defence" issue is that it is a trade off. If you were truly utilitarian, you would ask whether more innocent people die because weapons are available to all, compared with when they are limited to the state. I would submit that a comparison of UK/Can/Aus and US suggests that the NRA of America is wrong (NB the real NRA was formed first in the UK, and is based in Bisley). My opinion is also based on over a decade of training part-time infantrymen; having a gun is in no way the same as being able to use it correctly when needed.

341:

If self-defence is the over-riding concern for gun advocates, why not give everyone shotgun cartridges wrapped in a safety and a contact trigger and prohibit everything with a range of more than 5 feet? I mean, if someone is out to kill you, you're dead; they'll shoot/knife/bludgeon/whatever you before you know there's a threat. But if they're not out to murder you and they don't have a weapon with enough range to force you to back away, they're going to have to get within arm's reach at some point to get what they want, and a full load of double aught at point blank range is a career limiting injury no matter where you hit them.
/Devil's advocate. (",)

342:

The cost estimate for an armed guard at a school (per NPR this afternoon) was US$80,000/year, or about $8 billion across the country per year.

One school locally pointed out that he thought this was a waste of money. They have a security team, and he felt that diverting some fraction of that money towards counseling would help get troubled kids either into serious help, or help them become productive adults. While school counselors have a mediocre reputation, the man has a point. Killing people once they decided to become murderers is an expensive waste, even if successful. Diverting them is much cheaper, although less heroic.

As I've noted, the NRA appears incapable of proposing a solution that doesn't involve selling more guns, so in my book, they're only worth listening too if selling more guns actually makes sense to solve a given problem. In the Newtown massacre, as with many (most?) of the massacres before that, the only thing their hypothetical "good guys with guns" did was to encourage the shooter to commit suicide rather than being caught, and that was probably because there were a lot of them, and they were all police.

343:

"The NRA have systematically opposed any brakes on gun proliferation, so now there are so many guns out there that armed guards everywhere actually IS a sensible (though not fiscally viable) solution given the reality. It shouldn't be, but it is. Nothing succeeds like success."

Yes, but in spite of that, gun deaths are at roughly the same rate per 100,000 as they were in 1960. And despite escalating sales, the gun deaths peaked in around 1993.

And actually, the murders are down about forty percent from that peak. Suicides are surprisingly stable.

I have no idea what conclusions if any you can draw from that, but it doesn't support the idea that the NRA has caused some massive uptick in gun violence.

I am actually deeply curious about WHY so many people were murdered in and around 1993 (assuming this isn't an artifact of changing reporting).

344:

Incidentally, those numbers are drawn from this report: http://www.vpc.org/fact_sht/fadeathwithrates65-04.pdf

That's from the Violence Policy Centered, and the sources are listed.

345:

Some of the improvement in death stats will be from massively improved trauma medicine that means that people who would have died 30 years ago are revived and patched up and survive.

I wonder how injuries are doing?

The authors of a landmark study in 2002 on the relationship between murder and medicine
concluded that advances in emergency services―including the 911 system and
establishment of trauma centers―as well as better surgical techniques have suppressed the
homicide rate. They concluded that “…without these developments in medical technology
there would have been between 45,000 and 70,000 homicides annually the past 5 years
instead of an actual 15,000 to 20,000.”4

http://www.vpc.org/studies/moreguns.pdf
Hey, that violence policy centre is a useful place!

346:

Also:

"
This is where gun advocacy ends: not with a right to bear arms, but with an insistence that the rest of us have an obligation to do so. In the name of a misreading of the Second Amendment, teachers and children are conscripted in a gunfight. A movement that frames its cause as liberty imposes fear, and service only to the gun.

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2012/12/should-teachers-carry-guns.html#ixzz2Fm6LE7WA
"

347:

An armed guard in every school does not sound so bad given that many schools in the US already have them. And some of the worst schools in London have a resident policeman.

348:

Except, as has been pointed out in numerous places online, the cost would be 8 billion dollars upwards and the scool budget is always being reduced, and the NRA isn't likely to want to pay for that itself. And that guard would be a natural first target and contrary to the movies it is actually quite hard to recognise and deal with a muderous shooter before he's shot you 8 times with his semi-automatic. And anyway, if you burst in through a fire escape at one end of the school the guard still has to leg it to the danger point, giving you enough time to shoot a classroom or two of pupils.

Basically it might be of occaisional use, but really it isn't a solution.

349:

I'm thinking that you need multiple guards patrolling in pairs (see #295 for reasoning), and you need to have controlled access for legitimate visitors, escorts for said visitors with a subtle non-verbal alarm cue for the guards. Hmmm, if the much quoted US$8E9 cost is for one armed rentacop per school, I've just put that bill up by a multiple of at least 6 or 7!

350:

Some schools do need guards, and many school districts have police forces, or school guard services linked to local police.

That said, three school districts in my county had massive protests in the last year to keep from laying off classroom teachers and increasing class sizes. This is getting fairly normal in many states. Note that the music teachers, art teachers, librarians, and nurses are all gone, and science is on the way out. We're mainline teachers here.

In this context, forking over $80,000/year for someone whose primary job is to stand around, waiting for that 1 in 100,000 chance of a mass shooter (or 1 in 1,000 chance of a legitimate threat) is pretty wasteful. Note that, of the 120 legitimate threats reported in the media over the last eight years, all were resolved either by the existing police or by unarmed school officials (such as the principal who stopped one student from shooting another).

The bigger threat to the US is a crappy education, to be blunt. I'd rather see students learn in something that doesn't resemble a prison complete with armed guards.

351:

In that case select one or two teachers who would be prepared and trained to use a gun in the school environment and arm them, or give them access to a school gun. At present there is no alternative.

352:

Sure there is: do nothing. Students are far more at risk of dying in car accidents through drunk driving than they are of getting shot by a spree killer. While I haven't run the numbers, I suspect that children are more at risk from accidental shootings playing with guns (such as the teacher's guns proposed) than they are from mass shooters.

You HAVE to balance the risk with the response. Spree killers are rare, they have always been rare, and they typically kill no more than about a dozen people before being captured or dying. It's a one-in-a-ten-million threat. In comparison, I knew five people who died in drunk driving accidents during my high school and college years, and I don't think I'm unusual in that. Spree killers are so far down the list of threats I care about that I'm not going to spend any time preparing for it.

In this case, doing nothing will have effectively the same effect as putting an armed guard at every school, at least in terms of how many students' lives are saved. This will come at substantial cost, and it will make schools feel less safe, which may well have substantial follow-on costs in terms of academic performance. Can students learn if they feel like they're going to get shot at? That's a good question that you need to answer before you start turning schools into armed camps.

353:

guthrie @ 346
You forgot a couple of words or so, to end your sentence.
It should have read;
A movement that frames its cause as liberty imposes fear, and service only to the gun, AND the gunsellers and their corporate backers.
Ahem.

Also, given the "delightful little children" ... how long before a "Guard" gets so thoroughly effed-off that he (or dhe) goes on a killing spree themselves?
oops.

354:

What Heteromeles says.
Not every problem has a possible solution that will be useful/ effective in the real world.

355:

In that case select one or two teachers who would be prepared and trained to use a gun in the school environment and arm them, or give them access to a school gun. At present there is no alternative.

Real world example. The West Paducah / Heath high school shooting a while back. (Where I grew up btw.) The principal there at the time now works as a consultant on school safety. He was interviewed recently and gave this account. Start to finish 12 seconds. 3 dead, 5 wounded. He just happened to be close enough and in the right place to be able to grab the guy quickly. Or it was dropped and Bond grabbed him. Accounts vary.

Other than Jason Bourne, who's going to do better. And be that lucky in terms of "right place, right time". Plus his comments had a lot to do with this kids was in a crowd. Do you really want more rounds being fired into a crowd?

356:

Spree killers are so far down the list of threats I care about that I'm not going to spend any time preparing for it. In this case, doing nothing will have effectively the same effect as putting an armed guard at every school, at least in terms of how many students' lives are saved. This will come at substantial cost,

Yes. I feel this is somewhat like backup cameras in cars. It will save under 200 lives per year (in the US) and cost a few billion per year to the economy. And it is going to be required soon.

I feel we can save more lives with way less money if we look at non sensationalistic deaths instead playing to emotions about what problems to attack.

357:

Backup cameras in cars? Have you people never heard of the "rear-view mirror"?

358:

Actually, I love the backup camera. Then again, I have to back up out of a garage into a cul-de-sac where a *lot* of young kids live. You know, about 2-5, just learned to run, and all too happy to dart out of open garages? I don't have a good enough view with the rear view mirrors: the center mirror doesn't see the ground, and the side mirrors are blocked by the garage walls. The back-up camera has kept me from hitting kids, and as I said, I love it.

Similarly, I live in a city where there are a lot of huge trucks, SUVs and minivans. When backing out of a parking space at a shopping center or mall, I often cannot see traffic coming from one or both side, and if I'm backing out from behind a van, they can't see me. Did I mention everyone drives aggressively here? Again, I love the camera, because I can see what I'm backing out into, long before the clueless drivers can think to stop.

Then again, your mileage may differ. I also drive a car without a backup camera, and I manage that too. Often by walking out into the alley and checking for potential kids before I even get in the car.

359:

It's pretty normal practice here to reverse into spaces, driveways etc.

360:

I bet you don't have telescoping steering wheels as a matter of course either.

361:

Actually, you can also fit (if your car/van is the right shape) either a rear-view mirror, outside @ the back "looking down" or a Fresenel Lens in one of the rear windows - I'm thinking of getting one of those for the Great Green Beast.

As for steering columns, all here have to be in more than one piece, either with a sliding joint &/or a Hooke UJ in them (mine has 2 Hooke UJ's) for instance.

362:

You're right, we don't (well except for those cars that have reach adjustment). What we do have is a law requiring that the steering wheel shall not move more than a set distance (I think it's 100mm) towards the driver in a crash with an immovable and inflexible barrier at a given speed.

How an individual manufacturer meets this law is up to them. As Greg says in #361 Para2, either a collapsible section or a pair of Hooke's Joints are normal, but Audi designed some of their inline engine FWD models such that the engine moving backwards pulled the steering column forward, and TVR did similarly on some of their's by careful design of the firewall and upper column mounting.

363:

@342:
The cost estimate for an armed guard at a school (per NPR this afternoon) was US$80,000/year,
---
That's more than double what an experienced programmer makes here.

Screw micromanagement, ever-changing APIs, incomprehensible specifications, and 80-hour-a-week death marches! A mindless government job with a fat benefit package, yeah baby!

364:

cost > > pay. Add in the costs for guns and range time, qualification, any payroll taxes your employers have to meet...

If you wanted to hire me as a contractor for a project, my (private sector) employer would charge you about 6x what they pay me.

365:

I am actually deeply curious about WHY so many people were murdered in and around 1993 (assuming this isn't an artifact of changing reporting).

Nation wide in broad terms there was a change policing tactics where they started using computer analysis instead of gut instinct to figure out where more active patrols were needed. Plus a change in attitude that had police going after petty crime when it flared up after realizing that doing such tended to keep the bigger crimes from becoming entrenched. Not everyone agrees with these methods (police and non police) but they seem to make a noticeable difference where employed.

Start here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Maple
if you want to go down a deep rabbit hole.

366:

Yep. My high school back in the 60s/70s would be a bear to "harden".

You can search for Lone Oak High School, Paducah KY if you want to see how it looks now. The main building on the north side was built to replace the one my parents used back in the 20s/30s. (A class mate of mine burned it beyond repair in Feb 72)

But the given the number of buildings and entrances all over everywhere and how students need to swap buildings once an hour, you'd basically have to build a wall around it. Then deal with all the parking issues.

367:

Search via Google Maps that is.

368:

Depends. In my state, if you're making much more than $40k, you're costing your company upwards of $80k in benefits, insurance, and so forth. The NPR people said this was the cost to the school, especially including training, equipping, and insuring a guard, as well as salary and benefits.

Note that this is cheaper than equipping and sending a soldier to Afghanistan ($100-$200k), of which the soldier sees very little.

So, in sum, society loves programmers. You're low overhead, compared to security guards.

369:

The problem with the gun issue or the crime issue in general in the US is that its cultural not factual. Its simply not possible to have a rational discussion of the issues, get useful data or deal with it in any way but power politics. Both parties lie, the gun control lobby morseo.

Better to leave well enough alone in my opinion.

And note re: US homicide rates. Actual homicides of non criminals are quite low. Most homicdes are related to the drug trade and if I may shiow my American caloussness , the death of most of those people, gang members, drug dealers and assorted criminal typesa are no loss to society in general. Its skewed enough that according to Wikipedia (using crimes stats) in say Phillidelphia during the 90's crime wave 95% essentially all gunshot victims were comvicted criminals. Its normally around 3/4 .

Thats a big deal.

I'll even go farther and say is what the US has in a race assimilation problem we can't discuss politically , as an example homicide rates among Black Americans are 6 times the rate of Whites and note that rate is skewed by treating Hispanics as White (they most assuredly are a different culture and mostly race) Its probably much (12 or more x) higher

Try bringing that up in the political square. Fact is you can't basically and if we wanted to deal with that issue we have to find a method that allows us to deal with the actual problems we face, not the occasional spot of mental illness left untreated (like Adam Lanza for example) but the real consequences of our economy and broken homes.

No Dads, Many Deads

And yes the Scandinavian countries and the UK can cope with it better, we aren't the UK or Scandinavia. We are far closer to Brazil (even ethnically, in many areas most kids are not White)

What ends up happening is our inability to discuss anything properly leads to stupid legislation, political resentment and laws that essentially collectivly punish the cast majority of responsble people for the alleged common good. I find this distasteful at best, tyrnaical at worse . Grown people, the vast bulk of whom cause no trouble do not need to be treated as children.

To a couple of points, if we are to arm people in schools, we should train them. Thats perfectly doable and cheap. The NRA would likley do it near cost.

As for the changes in the UK, it was fast and the US appears to be tipping too the opposite way to more guns, more fear, tribalism and possibly one of the faliure modes.

Last I hate to be so abraisve but I can't help but think of your system there in the UK as the proto INGSOC. I suppose it natural though, a manifestation of the same trait in m society that makes it impossible for Left and Right to communicate. They litterally cannot understand one anothers social aspirations at this point.

A great example of your Marielitos, the loathsome Piers Morgan had a few of the gun people (Wayne LaPiere and the somewhat loony Ted Nungent) on and after they briskly defended their point of view he was recued to little more than spluttering, pointining and thinking them insane.

No big deal for a low rent Lumpen Mass of a news host but that seems to be part of everyone in leadership, the Right less so though more vehemently as they consider say pro Choice people evil murders.

That is no way to run well anything.

It makes me wish we had the Minds of the Culture or even their less capable early version The Computer Council from T.V.s Buck Rodgers (yes they had joint human AI governenece on the show) that could make these idiots communicate better.

370:

Force of bad habit here, part of my post was directed at our host and not his most excellent stand in who is like myself is American . Mea Culpa.

I guess you could substutute a different pronoun for your and the mesaage would remain.

as for the race issues , we I agree with you but as I said they can't be discussed. Its just not possible in the political climate

However I'll break taboo and suggest diversity is almost always inherently bad, people are generally happier with a like tribe, a few biological sports (liberals of some sorts by US parlance) anexcepted. There are solid evolutionaity reasons for it but we huimans are banding primates with some flexibility.

As a genweral rule they additions from diversity (some new ways of thinking, food and music sometimes) pale before the loss of social capital.

Professor Putnam (of Bowling Alone fame) discovered the consequences and they are not good. Its my hunch that in broad sense, they are biologically determiniative to a great degree and that attempts to alter them will result in conditions that damage human well being.

Also most importantly and non discussably in education they acheivement levels between various ethnic groups differ greatly. It does no good for students for them to have classmates with lower impulse control and weaker learning.

This is not a race issue per se. Smart and disciplined students with strong family lives and high investment parents are an asset regardless however the vast majority of non White and Asian students in the US do not meet this criteria.

This is why say California which was almost all high invenstment parents was top notch in education well intot he 80;s and now is second to last in the US and has more than a 1/3 drop out rate. The school system has too many low investment parents.

It would be nice to repair this but in no way can the dominant culture change the nature and ways of the weaker ones nor can we develop any sort of pedagogy that work well.

Every society has a certain level of task accumen and we seem to be beyond our level.

In fact I'd argue encouraging more home schooling and using the Internet resources is more idea for many families if they can swing it. Essentially we go away from big schools the size of medieval market towns and move to networks of families and something akin to the one room school house model updated for the 21st century ,

This will not provide the broad but shallow social capital of the industrial age or the uniformity of culture but it will provide more robust local capital like we once had which can withstand a lot more faults.

Any concerns over tribalism are noted but thats already here to stay

Third world style racial and kinfolk spoils systems are ubiquous in California and probably elsewhere and cannot and will not changed for sometime maybe ever, baring major reform in the political process.

In the end unchecked, a reversion to the older systems of kinship with a few new twists seems highly likely.

I guess in the end, the future may look more like the past than expected.

371:

Simon @ 369
...and possibly one of the failure modes.
Is modern feudalism, enforced by monetary separation - a Plutocratic feudalism, in fact a failure mode?
I would say yes, provided information is freely available.
Sooner or later, people will realise they've been conned, I assume?
@ @ 370
however the vast majority of non White and Asian students in the US do not meet this criteria.
Whereas in the UK this is emphatically not the case ...
childern from ethnic Chinese backgrounds trash all the opposition, academically, and the (ahem) non-muslim "Asians" tend to do very well, also - which suggests that the "problem/s" are derived from the erm, "cultural" values they are being exposed to in their own homes .....
Your later point ablut "Low investment parents" is extremely appopsite.
[ Usual disclaimer: all this is averaged over large sample sizes, and no prediction AT ALL can be made about any specific individual ]
but in no way can the dominant culture change the nature and ways of the weaker ones nor can we develop any sort of pedagogy that work well. I must disagree fundamentally wit that counsel of despair - it can be fixed, but it needs political will ( & shooting all the sociologists ...)


372:

Oh bugger - can someone fix my HTML screw-up, there?

[[ Done ]]

373:

shooting all the sociologists

Er, won't we need guns and ammo to do this? ;-)

374:

paws
NO
Just use longbows ....

375:

Hmmmm, I'd really rather use a compound recurve, but either way...

376:

Here's an interesting article on reducing violent crime:

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

I think one of the reasons discussions of legal changes become so flammable is that there are ethical issues associated with testing the validity of a hypothesis. So it can be difficult dealing a belief that does not correspond to one's own experiences -- you can agree with the belief or disagree with it, you can get upset with people that disagree with you... but approaching the problem scientifically -- finding adequate evidence -- can be difficult and ambiguous.

All of which is my way of saying that I have no good way of judging the quality of the above article (nor of any other discussion on how to deal with crime). But it sounds plausible, to me.

377:

I believe it one hundred percent. Leaded gasoline was an INSANE thing to do. Did we learn nothing from the Romans? I wonder how much lead shooters get in the vapor when they shoot guns for a long time. And I wonder what other pollutants we are currently being exposed to that we don't know about. What is the lead gasoline of the future?

Hate to sound the way I might, but when I was growing up in Dallas there was a neighborhood in the poor African American part of town (Cadillac Heights)

http://www.knowledgeplex.org/news/2912211.html?p=1

that had a lead factory, and you could tell the difference between kids from that neighborhood and those from others (including those from other poor African American neighborhoods). They were shorter, dumber, and crazier. So my experience anecodatally backs up the very good charts and maps in the article. As a matter of fact, years later I read somewhere that the lead levels in the soil in that area were just sky high, big surprise. Thank you, that is an awesome link.

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