Thursday, September 5, 2019

Gun Safety Laws, Mass Shootings, and the Iraq Invasion

I'm re-upping this posting from October, 2015.

I enjoy the challenge of trying to explain the right to the left (I'm myself near the center - a pox on both their houses, etc. - which gives me some perspective). Here are my previous efforts at right-whispering (this one is a good start).

I hate guns. All they've ever done is maim my loved ones. But I've lived in urban and suburban areas, where they're not part of a legitimate culture. If it were up to me, we'd melt them all down, but I recognize (and am apparently rare in the recognizance) that we share the country with other cultures and values, which deserve consideration and compromise.

Whenever these mass shootings happen, many people, understandably, advocate for tighter gun control. But the more intelligent, less emotional voices on the other side make good points:

1. There is nearly one firearm for every man, woman, and child in the US. So "lots of guns" is a given for the foreseeable future. It's politically unfeasible (not to mention unconstitutional) to take firearms away from their lawful owners; so any proposal hinging on the need to meaningfully reduce guns is daft. If the mass shooting problem is to be addressed, it must be done with the assumption of a landscape flush with guns as a given, whether we like it or not. That's not a right wing talking point; it's common sense.

2. The crazies will always find access to guns. We can try to tighten their access a bit (mostly to the inconvenience of non-crazies), but crazy people tend to be, if nothing else, persistent. And further stigmatizing and segregating the mentally ill would be no solution (who among us, for one thing, is completely mentally well 24/7?).

3. I'm no expert, but I gather that current gun-control/safety proposals would likely have prevented scant few of the mass-shootings we've seen in recent years. This point seems well-conceded by pragmatic voices on the left.

To me, that last one is pretty convincing. Since it's already unlawful to kill innocents with guns, further legislation needs to be very smart. Or else it can simply fulfill a kneejerk desire to "do something". But good government oughtn't work that way, and, alas, no one claims to have the smart answer. Leaders shouldn't simply flail, even amid horror.

Let me be clear: every single gun safety law I've heard about makes abundant good sense to me. I'd love to see them all implemented! The gun trade is horrendously under-regulated, and most Americans are sane enough to recognize that we need to tighten them. But none of them would prevent the shootings we're seeing. These solutions wouldn't fix the problem.

That's why the right is outraged by seemingly common sense proposals. Remember after 9/11, when neoconservatives seized the opportunity to invade Iraq, a long-time to-do item for them - for reasons completely unrelated to 9/11? And do you remember how the rest of us screamed our heads off about exploiting tragedy to pursue unrelated political aims? That's how the right feels when liberals renew pushing for gun control (always on their to-do list) after these tragedies, when those laws wouldn't prevent these sorts of tragedies any more than Saddam's demise would have prevented 9/11. It's not that they're against gun safety. It's that they've spotted the misdirection, and it gets their backs up.

Another thing to remember: anytime you hear astronomical statistics on American gun violence cited by the left, know there's a catch. Suicide accounts for way more than half of it - though it's seldom noted by gun-control advocates. So it's not just the right who bugger statistics and blur fact. Dissemblance makes people mistrustful, and mistrust explains why sane conservatives, otherwise inclined to gun safety laws, push back so hard against them.


Muscle_Burst said...

I don't see politics in terms of liberal and conservative. I don't see myself as leaning towards left or right. Yet, I agree with you that gun control is part of some sort of ulterior motive. Whether it be the right or left doesn't matter. In summary I feel safer with no gun control then with tight gun control.

One of my friends thinks we should all go vegetarian. That all violence is caused by eating meat. Either way cancer is a bigger threat than guns anyways "In 2002, the most recent year for which information is available, 476,009 Americans under 85 died of cancer compared with 450,637 who died of heart disease." John Esterbrook

"2001 to 2013, 406,496 people died by firearms on U.S. soil. " Julia Jones and Eve Bower

Over ten times the amount of people are dying from cancer and heart disease each compared to guns.

Steve said...

These attacks are another way of committing suicide. And we should try to reduce accidents and suicides.

Jim Leff said...

Suicide or celebrity? I realize it needn't be either/or, but the impulse seems far more grandiose than suicidal. If we somehow made people less suicidal, I wouldn't expect a big drop in mass shootings. But if we made them less thirsty for infamy, it's hard to imagine this ever happening again. Alas, humans will likely retain their taste for infamy and suicide. Both are well baked-in.

Really, it's the ultimate copycat phenomenon. There've been 142 school shootings since Sandy Hook (interestingly, serial murderers, as currently understood/classified, didn't exist until the late 19th century). Humans are more imitative than we commonly acknowledge, and it especially crops up when we quest for fame. Well-trodden paths are well-trodden - particularly by the losers with no other pathways to notoriety.

Hmm. "Other pathways to notoriety." I wonder what other, healthier, routes might be established for powerless people to "get their names out there" without slaughtering crowds of innocents. Any ideas?

Muscle_Burst said...

I blame Television for people not getting enough attention. In school, I could talk and do all sorts of actions. Nobody really noticed or cared. Yet, by golly if some random person said something on T.V. everyone paid attention. Even if I said the same phrase the person on T.V. said.

Steve said...

Extreme violence in TV, movies, and video games has dramatically changed our culture in ways that have enured some folks to violence. The internet has provided a convenient platform for promoting rage.

Jim, yes infamy plays a part in all this. The person also has to decide to commit suicide - maybe by being gunned down- and also want to physically express their rage.

On This American Life, there was a story about an alarming trend in the 18th century, in which folks committed suicide by killing infants and then being put to death for their crime.

Muscle_Burst said...

I'm not so sure about the video games. I doubt Tetris or Pac-man has caused too many mass shootings. Space invaders is a fairly violent game, yet I doubt its the cause. I think violence in video games only brings aggressive emotions to the surface.

I think I read on Jim's Slog or maybe it was another blogger about how we are getting less violent. Its just the media amplifies everything, so we think we are getting more violent.

Remember some of the shooters are caught alive.

Muscle_Burst said...

Rather than speculation lets use science to our advantage:

"Iowa State researchers say there is a strong connection between violent video games and youth violence and delinquency."

Perhaps I am wrong.

"Our data confirm the role of violent video games as risk factors for problems of aggressive behavior and of externalization in childhood and early adolescence."

Perhaps I am very very wrong. Maybe violent video games like pac-man and space invaders really does increase mass shootings. This is a lot better than participating in conjecture.

Steve said...

I don't think anyone ever got shot in Pac-Man. Or even knifed to death. But I could be wrong abut that. I never did get through the entire game, only 23 screens. For all I know, on the 24th screen Pac-Man comes out with an Uzi.

Adam said...
Arguing with gun nuts on twitter bingo - find "violent games are the cause of the problem".

Muscle_Burst said...

Yeah but in Pac-man you devour ghosts, how cruel is that? They are already dead, and now you kill them again. Would be interesting to know if non-violent video games also were risk factors for aggression and externalization.

Adam, I never used twitter so no idea what your stating.

Muscle_Burst said...

Hmmm, I may be on to something, it appears that frustrating video games lead to more violence. Which makes sense. "Ouch I stubbed my toe, me smash!"

"The researchers found that it was the players who had not had the tutorial who felt less competent and more aggressive, rather than people who had played the more violent version of the game." Dave Lee

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