Written by David Greenwald Saturday, 22 December 2012 07:14
I often believe that scientific allegories give us an insight into our culture that we may lack, because ideas presented in a more straightforward way can run into opposition. For the past week I have gone to a particular episode in the TV Series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
In a make-believe world of vampires and demons, the tolksfolk in the fictitious California town of Sunnydale were often immune and indifferent to killings. But a day when two young children were found dead, the town awoke to its problems and rose up in arms in a modern day witchhunt for the culprit - now, it turned out a demon had fabricated the situation to inflame the passions, but the main point is that the demon understood that the vehicle of child victims was a powerful tool that could awake even the most entrenched indifference.
It is in this place that we find the Sandy Hook tragedy. A shooting at a high school over a decade ago incites outrage, the shooting at a college university begets sorrow and concern, but a shooting of large numbers of innocent six-year-olds is a different story altogether. People are simply not going to allow this to stand.
Against that backdrop, you offer the words of the vice president of the NRA, who had been silent for a week and, truth be told, should have just stayed that way.
Frankly, it is not that what he said is that different from hundreds of gun advocates - their belief is that more weapons make us safer.
Or to use the words of N.R.A. vice president, Wayne LaPierre, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
The blame he put was on violent video games, movies and music videos for exposing children to a violent culture day in and day out.
"In a race to the bottom, many conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate, and offend every standard of civilized society, by bringing an even more toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty right into our homes," Mr. LaPierre said.
His solution was that, before Congress should move to pass new gun restrictions, it should "act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation" by the time students return from winter break in January.
"Now I can imagine the headlines - the shocking headlines you'll print tomorrow," he said. "More guns, you'll claim, are the N.R.A.'s answer to everything. Your implication will be that guns are evil and have no place in society, much less in our schools. But since when did the gun automatically become a bad word?"
The problem with the idea that arming more people is a solution is that these attacks are quite rare. But if you put guns into the hands of principals and teachers, you introduce the probability that the cure is worse than the disease.
The practical consideration of storing a gun at a school in a manner and location that does not make it accessible to kids or those who would use the guns against the authorities, but is accessible in this type of emergency, seems overwhelming.
Guns in the hands of the untrained are dangerous. How do we take practical steps to secure the weapons and make sure that we are not simply arming more unstable people in an effort to counter the possibility of unstable people armed with weapons?
Perhaps we should listen to voices of reason, such as Republican Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, whose response to the NRA proposal was that posting armed guards outside of school will not make classrooms safer or encourage learning.
"You can't make this (school) an armed camp for kids," said the governor, himself a former federal prosecutor.
The New York Times editorial this morning writes, "The N.R.A., which devotes itself to destroying compromise on guns, is blameless. So are unscrupulous and unlicensed dealers who sell guns to criminals, and gun makers who bankroll Mr. LaPierre so he can help them peddle ever-more-lethal, ever-more-efficient products, and politicians who kill even modest controls over guns."
The Times continued, "His solution to the proliferation of guns, including semiautomatic rifles designed to kill people as quickly as possible, is to put more guns in more places."
"Mr. LaPierre would put a police officer in every school and compel teachers and principals to become armed guards," the Times continued. "He wants volunteer and professional firefighters, who already risk their lives every day, to be charged with thwarting an assault by a deranged murderer. The same applies to paramedics, security guards, veterans, retired police officers."
"We cannot imagine trying to turn the principals and teachers who care for our children every day into an armed mob. And let's be clear, civilians bristling with guns to prevent the 'next Newtown' are an armed mob, even with training offered up by Mr. LaPierre. Any town officials or school principals who take up the N.R.A. on that offer should be fired," the Times writes.
They note that there have been 62 mass-murder cases over the last 30 years, and not one was stopped by an armed civilian.
Indeed, the Times points out, "We have known for many years that a sheriff's deputy was at Columbine High School in 1999 and fired at one of the two killers while 11 of their 13 victims were still alive. He missed four times."
The New York Times article reported that 23,000 of the nation's public schools already have armed security. That's roughly one third.
But the Times makes the critical point that so many gun enthusiasts miss: "People like Mr. LaPierre want us to believe that civilians can be trained to use lethal force with cold precision in moments of fear and crisis. That requires a willful ignorance about the facts. Police officers know that firing a weapon is a huge risk; that's why they avoid doing it. In August, New York City police officers opened fire on a gunman outside the Empire State Building. They killed him and wounded nine bystanders."
And those are trained police officers, far more trained than any civilian might be.
Of course, my biggest fear with the NRA solution is that we simply add more variables to the equation, more guns, more things that can go wrong.
You have the possibility of accidental fire, people misreading a situation and shooting, people having access to weapons that takes a heated dispute to the next level, and, of course, kids accidentally getting weapons that were improperly stored - or the weapons getting stolen in a number of ways.
On the one hand, the NRA may have done us a favor, because this argument has been floating out there for a week on social media posts and blog comments. Not only can responsible people shoot it down, but it exposes the NRA's hand.
However, one columnist argued that Mr. LaPierre's speech was actually quite effective.
Writes Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post: "Those critics are wrong. LaPierre's presentation was terrifically effective. Granted, if you believe that what LaPierre was trying to do today was to sincerely join in a national conversation over school shootings, or offer a coherent set of preventative policy options, or even just demonstrate some baseline sensitivity for the lives that were lost, it is easy to see why you'd deem LaPierre's press conference to be an ineffective, tone-deaf failure."
However, he reminds us, "You should remember that the National Rifle Association does not exist to offer sensible public policy or participate in conversations or pretend to be sensitive about tragedies. The National Rifle Association exists to assist the manufacturers of guns and gun-related accoutrements in selling guns and gun-related accoutrements to people. That is their job, summed up, in its entirety."
Indeed he writes, "The NRA are lobbyists who represent a bunch of gun retailers, and this is what lobbyists do -- they help their clients sell their products. And every action that LaPierre took today can and should be viewed through that prism."
But this time it might be different, because as much as we were pained by Columbine or Virginia Tech, these are six-year-olds, and six-year-olds cannot die in this society without forcing changes.
That is why the demons chose their image as the catalysts for fomenting anger and resentment in the community. And it's why people were willing yesterday to openly criticize and mock the NRA. If the luster comes off the NRA, then perhaps even without legislative changes, we may prevail.
Then again, it might not matter. After all, in a system where we cannot get simple compromises to save the economy, how can we expect to prevent the killing of six-year-olds?
---David M. Greenwald reporting
I suppose I should make a public declaration prior to speaking to this issue. I dislike guns and what they represent--killing something. People who speak of the right to gun ownership and possession in any context scare me.
But I feel a little sorry for the NRA. They delayed speaking on this unspeakable tragedy by design. They had to respond, but didn't really want to. They knew it was a trap.
Traditional NRA critics, emotionally charged by profound grief and anger waited expectantly. No matter what the NRA said, they would be attacked. Yet, the NRA leadership could not keep its mouth shut. Their membership demanded they defend them an assign blame elsewhere.
All that said, I have to agree that the NRA really botched this one. Turning the nation's classrooms into potential shooting galleries is not a national policy recommendation people are willing to consider right now. Blaming the entertainment industry may have some merit, but public opinion wants corrective action that is much more tangible, and deals directly and tangibly with firearms.
An extraordinarily interesting article by Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses parallels between the psychology of he NRA today and pro-slavery forces in the mid 19th century. A taste, " I don't mean to equate owning slaves with owning guns. But I do mean to equate the tactics and rhetoric of the NRA with those of proslavery "Fire-Eaters." The NRA casts itself as a champion of the Constitution. So did slaveholders, citing the safeguards accorded owners of human "property." Few Americans questioned slavery's legality, though they debated the Founders' intent, just as we do with the Second Amendment. "
I have a legitimate question about how you see two distinct, but related issues. I do not intend this as a provocation but rather as an opening for understanding.
There seem to be three major issues regarding the "right" to own guns.
1) The constitutional right. If the second amendment is taken in full, it would seem that the intent was based on the
perceived importance of a militia, and not on the enjoyment that a gun owner might or might not derive from
2) The protection issue. I understand that some people feel safer with weapons in their homes. I would feel safer if
no one had these kinds of weapons in their homes or on their persons. I agree that both sides can bring out
their statistics and anecdotes demonstrating the "rightness" of their position. So it would seem to me that the
best approach would be one that improves the safety of allowable weapons such that they can only be
discharged by their rightful owner and with limited capacity for mass destruction ( whether one would limit types
of weapons or quantity of ammunition ) open to discussion.
3) The pleasure in gun ownership issue.
It is around this last issue that I have my question. You have come out in the past against relaxation of drug laws.
So my question would be, how do you see these two issues as so different that you defend the right of gun owners to have their enjoyment of their pass time, but feel that we need to restrict the preferred pass time of those who prefer the individual, personal use of drugs in their own home ? In thinking about this, please consider that both guns and drugs have an associated black market, both can lead to physical harm to those using them, and both, if used to excess can prevent individuals from engaging in perhaps more personally and societally productive activities.
> I suppose I should make a public declaration
> prior to speaking to this issue. I dislike guns
> and what they represent--killing something.
> People who speak of the right to gun ownership
> and possession in any context scare me
If you were in charge would anyone have a right to own guns, the Army?, Police?, Park Rangers?, Secret Service?, Guy that camps in the Mendocino National Forrest where pot growers on crystal meth get real paranoid?, Rancher with a Ranch near the Mexican Border that had armed drug dealers crossing his property?, Single Mom in a housing project who heard gunshots every night?
> All that said, I have to agree that the NRA
> really botched this one.
I agree with you on this one... The NRA (and other crazy "gun nuts") are making the 99% of responsible gun owners look bad…
They note that there have been 62 mass-murder cases over the last 30 years, and not one was stopped by an armed civilian.
I'm missing the logic of this statement. For the cases that were stopped by an armed civilian, the mass-murder did not occur. What are you trying to say here?
I take it to say that for example, Columbine, they had a chance to stop it while in progress and could not. You seem to believe that an armed civilian would stop the mass murder from occurring, it's far more likely that it would stop the shooter midway through and that apparently hasn't happened.
It also points out the hazards in even professionally trained law enforcement agents attempting to fire at a suspect in a crowd of people. Gun advocates seem to believe that someone would simply be able to shoot and incapacitate the assailant, but they might end up just adding to the casualty list.
For the cases that were stopped by an armed civilian, the mass-murder did not occur. What are you trying to say here?
Can you site instances ( and numbers of cases) in which this has occurred ? By profession, I tend to be very evidence based. If you could show me the numbers that demonstrate that a significant number of killings of innocents have been stopped by armed security, I would be much more likely to see this as a viable alternative that should be explored.
I tend to be very evidence based.
I'm not making any claims one way or the other, since I have not studied this issue. But I too like to think I form opinions based on evidence.
Can you show me the numbers that demonstrate that a significant number of killings of innocents have been stopped by gun control laws (or whatever policy you are supporting)?
Can you show me the numbers that demonstrate that a significant number of killings of innocents have been stopped by gun control laws (or whatever policy you are supporting)?
I believe that I can if you are willing to accept data from another country. There are those who claim that this approach could not work in this country. I believe that there are enough similarities between Australia and the US to at least make a similar, if not identical approach, worth considering.
In 1996 in Port Arthur there was a mass shooting by a single perpetrator which left 35 people dead. In the aftermath, the Prime Minister ( a political ally of President Bush) pushed through strict gun control legislation including a mandatory government buyback of semi automatic and automatic shotguns and rifles.
Some of the subsequent events ( some would say consequences although that is of course impossible to prove) :
1) In the decade prior to 1996, there had been 11 mass shootings in Australia, and to the best of my knowledge,
have been none since.
2) Homicides by firearm dropped by 59 % between 1996 and 2006 without a corresponding rise in murder by other
means ( in fairness, this finding has been disputed,however, number 3 below has not been)
3) Suicides by gun dropped by 65 % without a commensurate rise in suicides by other means. This is possibly
related more to the lethality of the method than to the numbers of attempts since I do not have commensurate
data for attempts using all modalities. Alternatively it could be due to the often transient nature of the urge to
suicide. I do not have the reference for this, but the Israeli experience was that the suicide rate for their soldiers
dropped dramatically when they were forced to leave their weapons on base when going home on leave.
So during the same period when suicide rates have dropped in Australia, they have increased in the US during
These findings suggest a number of possible approaches to me.
1) Stricter regulations on the type of weapons and ammunition that are available outside of secure and regulated
shooting facilities. Again, I have no problem with ownership of virtually any kind of firearm a person wants as
long as it is kept in some secured facility, checked out, and returned prior to leaving the facility.
2) Safer firearms, perhaps with single shooter technology, that only allows for the registered owner to fire the
weapon. Additional safety features that prevent accidental discharge or perhaps a pressure requirement that
would preclude a child from discharging the weapon would be reasonable. I have no expertise in design but feel
that with current technologies it would probably be very feasible to design a firearm that is safer than todays.
3) More firearm safety training required and maintenance of competency requirements to own weapons. As Jeff
pointed out in his post, although I know he was making a different point, operating privileges are not given to
every one even though scalpels are not banned. If we can regulate where and by whom a scalpel can be used
on another person, why can we not consider putting some very basic competence standards into ownership and
use of weapons. I would make one exception for collectors. If a person is truly interested only in owning
weapons for show, then they have no need of ammunition and should be allowed to keep their weapons, either
disabled so as not to be capable of firing, or without access to ammunition.
The information and suggestions above are meant as a means of opening conversation, not as definitive or conclusive.
A reminder of past history of Wayne LaPierre.
Letter of Resignation Sent By Bush (#41) to Rifle Association, May 3, 1995
I was outraged when, even in the wake of the Oklahoma City tragedy, Mr. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of N.R.A., defended his attack on federal agents as “jack-booted thugs.” To attack Secret Service agents or A.T.F. people or any government law enforcement people as “wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms” wanting to “attack law abiding citizens” is a vicious slander on good people.
> I agree with you on this one... The NRA (and other crazy
> "gun nuts") are making the 99% of responsible gun owners
> look bad…
Then Growth issue wrote:
> completely agree on this point, though i would suggest
> the number is lower than 99% of gun owners.
Keep in mind that most responsible gun owners don't talk about guns, or let anyone know that they have guns in the home (more than half your friends might be gun owners who just keep the fact that they have a gun private). Other than my wife no one in Yolo County knows that I own a gun. Like most gun owners I've never gone hunting and guns or gun ownership is not something that I talk about socially. In the past week I've read that there are 200 million to 300 million guns in the US numerous times and while I'm sure we have "millions" of gun nuts in America I don't believe we have "tens of millions" of gun nuts...
What you cite is plausible, but doesn't rise to the level of convincing evidence.
For example, you use as evidence that in Australia,
Homicides by firearm dropped by 59 % between 1996 and 2006 without a corresponding rise in murder by other means
But violent crime rates and murder rates in the US have also dropped drastically.
The homicide rate in the US has dropped from 9.8 to 4.8 per 100,000 since 1991. Less than half of what it was. There have been various explanations, from changing demographics to changes in police methodology to increasing incarceration. It's important when making conclusions not to fall into the trap of conflating correlation with causation.
> I do not have the reference for this, but the Israeli experience
> was that the suicide rate for their soldiers dropped dramatically
> when they were forced to leave their weapons on base when going
> home on leave.
Comparing the US to Israel is really a waste of time since it would be like comparing the upscale White Plains NY neighborhood with multiple synagogues where my Jewish friend Tom grew up to Oakland, CA. My friend Tom's parent’s neighborhood does not have less shootings than Oakland due to the different laws it has less shootings because it is TOTALLY DIFFERENT. Since you mention Israel one of the reasons that it does not have any crazy kids shooting up schools is because every school is an armed camp with multiple guns on every campus (and guns in all the school buses).
> 1) Stricter regulations on the type of weapons and
> ammunition that are available outside of secure and
> regulated shooting facilities.
How will this stop the small single Mom that finds a big guy stabbing her daughter in her home (all single Moms are not MDs that can afford to live in an expensive low crime area like Davis)? Or the backpackers that find a pot grower who has been up for three days using crystal meth and wants to kill them all?
> 2) Safer firearms, perhaps with single shooter
> technology, that only allows for the registered
> owner to fire the weapon.
This won't do anything since we already have 200 to 300 MILLION guns in the US with millions more outside the US that can be brought in to the country just as easily as the millions of pounds illegal drugs brought in EVERY year and the MILLIONS of illegal aliens we have just here in California.
> 3) More firearm safety training required and
> maintenance of competency requirements to own weapons.
I don't think that the gang bangers with illegal guns are going to take a "firearm safety training" class if we pass law making them do it. I don't think that the majority of current legal gun owners really need a class. I did a Google search and found that the "Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms says 93% of all firearms used in criminal acts are obtained illegally."
For the US
Mother Jones lists 151 (plus a very recent event) gun deaths from mass shootings this year.
Slate lists 130 gun deaths since the Sandy Hook shootings (This morning it was 121).
Follow gun deaths by the hour on Twitter @GunDeaths. Last report, 7 hrs ago.
After my column on the Newtown massacre was published, I got a lot of email. All of it, but one, was on my side of the issue. I think bits of the exchange I had with that one reader whose views are those of the NRA would be of interest to Vanguard readers:
READER: "I own guns and I am a hunter, but not a maniac. "
My greatest concern is with the small minority of people who are mentally ill. I am fully aware that the vast majority of Americans who own guns are sane and have no malicious intent.
I had a family member (he is now an ex-in law) who developed paranoid schizophrenia and he started collecting firearms in order to "protect himself from the CIA" which he believed "was planting listening devices and cameras in his ceiling." Every time he went off of his medications, he was extremely dangerous. Yet due to the NRA's control of our instant background check, he was never once denied the right to legally purchase a gun.
READER: "Most handguns equipped with magazines hold from 7-10 rounds. Magazines are easily ejected when empty and replaced by a full magazine."
An interesting case of mass murder to think about is the case of Jared Lee Loughner, the schizophrenic in Tucson who shot 18 people, killing 6. My memory of the specifics is a bit hazy, but I believe he had a magazine on his semi-automatic which held 33 rounds. He emptied the entire chamber at pretty close range. Some shots missed entirely, all the others caused injury, in 6 cases fatal.
Loughner was carrying a number of extra magazines.
The only reason he "only" shot 18 people and "only" killed 6 was because, when his magazine was empty, he had to stop, grab his next magazine and reload, before he could kill some more. When he grabbed the second magazine, it slipped from his hand. He then started to grab a third magazine. All of that took a second or two.
In that short amount of time, Loughner was hit over the head by someone in the crowd and knocked down and stopped for good.
If Arizona had a 10 round limit to magazines, as we have in California, then all else held equal, he would have shot about 6 people and killed 2. He would have been stopped changing his magazines.
READER: "Revolvers usually hold 6 rounds and take a little longer to reload but there are speed loaders which reduce reloading time. Both type of handguns will fire off rounds as fast as the shooter can pull the trigger."
It sounds like speed loaders should not be available to civilians (unless they are using them in a controlled, regulated environment).
READER: "You may be aware that there are several rifles that chamber the .223 round."
Yes. I noted in my column that the AK-47 and Bushmaster .223 use the same type of cartridge.
READER: "Many people I know use these for target shooting and hunting."
There is no need for a semi-automatic assault rifle for shooting birds or rabbits or deer or even an elk.
READER: "If someone is shooting a 10 round clip and can push a release dropping the clip and replace it with a full clip in one second what difference does it make how many rounds are in the magazine?"
The Loughner case makes it very clear how much difference that makes. The killer at Virginia Tech, also would not have been able to kill so many people if Virginia had California's restrictions on magazines. That killer was also a paranoid schizophrenic who, due to the NRA, could be denied the right to purchase his massive arsenal.
Again, as I said in my piece, the law says that mental patients cannot pass background checks. But the NRA has stopped all laws which would put a mental patient on the same list which has felons.
READER: "Your suggestion of having semi-automatic long guns such as the Bushmaster stored and used only at regulated gun ranges in my opinion sets a dangerous precedent. What will be next? Hunting rifles that chamber more than one round? All handguns? All long guns?"
The precedent is the fully automatic machine gun. Ordinary civilians cannot buy them and keep them in their homes. They are simply too dangerous in the hands of the wrong people.
If someone wants a gun in his home for protection, he can have a hand-gun which fires no more than 10 shots. If he wants a shot-gun, no problem. If he needs a special gun (like an assault rifle) for target shooting, then he can do so under regulated circumstances. That is where the line needs to be drawn.
READER: "Saying that no one needs an AK-47 stored at their house is your opinion and I respect that. I do not own one or want one. However, it would infringe on the rights of others who have never and will never use the privilege of owning a firearm to harm another human being."
That is true. It does infringe on the rights of those who are responsible and not malicious and not insane. So does outlawing those civilians from owning and operating fully automatic machine guns.
No rights are absolute. Each right needs to be weighed up against other rights when there is a conflict. In this case, the priority needs to go to the right of everyone else to be in the public square or a theater or a school, etc, and know that no civilian can shoot up the place with an assault weapon designed for war.
READER: "It is the responsibility of a gun owner to keep guns in a safe or equip them with trigger locks so that others cannot access them."
Agreed. Yet, again due to the NRA, we have almost no law enforcement capability to ensure that private guns are stored safely. For example, in the case of the mother of Adam Lanza, I had no problem with her choice to own and operate firearms. But she should have been required by law to keep them locked up, and she never should have been allowed to teach her mentally ill son to use them, let alone have access to them.
READER: "Criminals, lunatics and the evil in our society will always have access to guns."
If we had reasonable gun laws, as many countries do, then it would be much harder for paranoid schizophrenics to buy guns and ammunition. And it would be much harder for them to have access to dangerous weapons.
JR: Your response to Medwoman (she cites data from Australia on lowered homicide rates and you counter with data from US's lowered homicide rate) and then cluck-cluck at her for equating correlation with causation. That's always an easy counter. But correlation is real. I suggest that you look at the Australian data about suicide before you simply dismiss her arguments. The suicide data is particularly strong, as is much of the data (albeit correlational) about reducing suicides through the restriction of means. Pre- and post- data is often some of the most convincing but it relies of course on correlational statistics because we don't randomize subjects in these sorts of situations.
So let's take a look at some data from this country. Start with some data about what kinds of deaths are due to guns. In 2010 over 19,000 individuals (mostly male and white) killed themselves with guns. Here's a quote from an article entitled: Homicide, suicide, and unintentional firearm fatality: comparing the United States with other high-income countries, 2003. "The United States has far higher rates of firearm deaths-firearm homicides, firearm suicides, and unintentional firearm deaths compared with other high-income countries. The US overall suicide rate is not out of line with these countries, but the United States is an outlier in terms of our overall homicide rate." Here's an abstract from a study of over 230,000 Californians who purchased a gun in 1991:
BACKGROUND: There continues to be considerable controversy over whether ownership of a handgun increases or decreases the risk of violent death.
METHODS: We conducted a population-based cohort study to compare mortality among 238,292 persons who purchased a handgun in California in 1991 with that in the general adult population of the state. The observation period began with the date of handgun purchase (15 days after the purchase application) and ended on December 31, 1996. The standardized mortality ratio (the ratio of the number of deaths among handgun purchasers to the number expected on the basis of age- and sex-specific rates among adults in California) was the principal outcome measure.
RESULTS: In the first year after the purchase of a handgun, suicide was the leading cause of death among handgun purchasers, accounting for 24.5 percent of all deaths and 51.9 percent of deaths among women 21 to 44 years old. The increased risk of suicide by any method among handgun purchasers (standardized mortality ratio, 4.31) was attributable entirely to an excess risk of suicide with a firearm (standardized mortality ratio, 7.12). In the first week after the purchase of a handgun, the rate of suicide by means of firearms among purchasers (644 per 100,000 person-years) was 57 times as high as the adjusted rate in the general population. Mortality from all causes during the first year after the purchase of a handgun was greater than expected for women (standardized mortality ratio, 1.09), and the entire increase was attributable to the excess number of suicides by means of a firearm. As compared with the general population, handgun purchasers remained at increased risk for suicide by firearm over the study period of up to six years, and the excess risk among women in this cohort (standardized mortality ratio, 15.50) remained greater than that among men (standardized mortality ratio, 3.23). The risk of death by homicide with a firearm was elevated among women (standardized mortality ratio at one year, 2.20; at six years, 2.01) but low among men (standardized mortality ratio at one year, 0.84; at six years, 0.79).
CONCLUSIONS: The purchase of a handgun is associated with a substantial increase in the risk of suicide by firearm and by any method; the increase in the risk of suicide by firearm is apparent within a week after the purchase of a handgun. The magnitude of the increase and the relation between handgun purchase and the risk of death by homicide differ between men and women.
There are multiple studies of the increased risk of both suicide and homicide when guns are accessible. See the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program, or the Johns Hopkins Center Gun Policy and Research.
(Here's my biases: I've never owned a gun and have no wish to. I oppose ownership of assault-style firearms and believe they should be banished from the U.S.. I am a psychologist who has spent the last seven years of my career working in suicide prevention. I don't believe the 2nd amendment prevents sensible and reasonable gun control laws. As opposed to some, I believe fewer guns overall will reduce our suicide and homicide rate and the rate of preventable firearm deaths. And finally, I believe in data.)
What you cite is plausible, but doesn't rise to the level of convincing evidence.
And this is why I made my statement that my intent was to open conversation, not to put this forth as definitive.
In medicine we grade evidence by its relative quality. The gold standard is the large, prospective, randomized,
double blinded study. Since I doubt we will ever have a cohort of parents willing to subject their children, or themselves for that matter, to such a study using actual shooters, we will have to make do with less rigorously controlled evidence. In medicine such studies have included comparison of population studies, drug trials on very limited numbers of patients, drug trials using other ( preferably closely related) animals, or sometimes extrapolating from adult studies to the pediatric population since it is very difficult to get sufficient numbers of parents to allow experimentation on their children.
I would note that if we were never to accept less than thoroughly rigorous testing in medicine, there would have been no progress and we would still not have antibiotics, or immunizations, or anti cancer agents, or any of a host of other treatments. Sometimes we have to take what is plausible and try it. Demanding proof that something works, but refusing to let anyone try it in a meaningful fashion, is to block even the possibility of progress.
To gun experts, an assault rifle is a very specific type of weapon which originated (for the most part) in the 1940s. It is a magazine fed, select fire (meaning capable of full auto), intermediate cartridge infantry weapon.
The thing is, real assault rifles in the US have been heavily regulated since before they were invented. The thing that the media and politicians like to refer to as assault rifles is basically a catch all term for any gun which looks scary.
If our bureaucrats want to legislate it, they need to DEFINE IT.
The US banned assault rifles once before for a decade and the law did absolutely nothing. I mean, it was totally, literally pointless. The special commission to study it said that it accomplished absolutely nothing. The reason was that since assault weapon is a nonsense term, they just came up with a list of arbitrary features which made a gun into an assault weapon.
Problem was, none of these features actually made the gun functionally any different or somehow more lethal or better from any other run of the mill firearm. Most of the criteria were so silly that they became a huge joke to gun owners, except of course, for that part where many law abiding citizens accidentally became instant felons because one of their guns had some cosmetic feature which was now illegal.
One of the criteria was that it was semi-automatic. Hard to ban the single most common and readily available type of gun in the world.
Then what if it takes a detachable magazine! That’s got to be an Evil Feature but it is pretty hard to ban something that common unless you want to go on a confiscatory national suicide mission.
Flash hiders sound dangerous. Let’s say having a flash hider makes a gun an assault weapon. So flash hiders became an evil feature. Problem is flash hiders don’t do much. They screw onto the end of your muzzle and divert the flash off to the side instead of straight up so it isn’t as annoying when you shoot. It doesn’t actually hide the flash from anybody else. EVIL.
Barrel shrouds were listed. Barrel shrouds are basically useless, cosmetic pieces of metal that go over the barrel so you don’t accidentally touch it and burn your hand. But they became an instantaneous felony too. Collapsible stocks make it so you can adjust your rifle to different size shooters, that way a tall guy and his short wife can shoot the same gun. Nope. EVIL FEATURE!
It has been a running joke in the gun community ever since the ban passed. When Carolyn McCarthy was asked by a reporter what a barrel shroud was, she replied “I think it is the shoulder thing which goes up.” Oh good. I’m glad that thousands of law abiding Americans unwittingly committed felonies because they had a cosmetic piece of sheet metal on their barrel, which has no bearing whatsoever on crime, but could possibly be a shoulder thing which goes up.
Now are you starting to see why “assault weapons” is a pointless term? They aren’t functionally any more powerful or deadly than any normal gun. In fact the cartridges they normally fire are far less powerful than your average deer hunting rifle. Don’t worry though, because the same people who fling around the term assault weapons also think of scoped deer rifles as “high powered sniper guns”.
The reason that semi-automatic, magazine fed, intermediate caliber rifles are the single most popular type of gun in America is because they are excellent for many uses, but I’m not talking about fun, or hunting, or sports, today I’m talking business. And in this case they are excellent for shooting bad people who are trying to hurt you, in order to make them stop trying to hurt you. These types of guns are superb for defending your home. Now some of you may think that’s extreme. That’s because everything you’ve learned about gun fights comes from TV.
I had one individual tell me that these types of guns are designed to slaughter the maximum number of people possible as quickly as possible… Uh huh… Which is why every single police department in America uses them, because of all that slaughtering cops do daily. Cops use them for the same reason we do, they are handy, versatile, and can stop an attacker quickly in a variety of circumstances.
The guns that many of you think of as assault rifle are common and popular because they are excellent for fighting.
Dear Craised, maybe you can explain a few things. What caliber bullet is the typical semi-automatic, magazine fed, intermediate caliber rifle you mention? What size magazine is common? Why would someone wanting to defend their home buy large capacity magazines (>10 rounds) for such a weapon? Why has California been more successful in banning these firearms than the federal government?
Why do gun owners want magazines that hold more rounds?
Because sometimes you miss. Because usually—contrary to the movies—you have to hit an opponent multiple times in order to make them stop. Because sometimes you may have multiple assailants. We don’t have more rounds in the magazine so we can shoot more, we have more rounds in the magazine so we are forced to manipulate our gun less if we have to shoot more.
The last assault weapons ban capped capacities at ten rounds. You quickly realize ten rounds sucks when you take a wound ballistics class like I have and go over case after case after case after case of enraged, drug addled, prison hardened, perpetrators who soaked up five, seven, nine, even fifteen bullets and still walked under their own power to the ambulance. That isn’t uncommon at all. Legally, you can shoot them until they cease to be a threat, and keep in mind that what normally causes a person to stop is loss of blood pressure, anybody worth shooting once was worth shooting five or seven times. You shoot them until they leave you alone.
Also, you’re going to miss. It is going to happen. If you can shoot pretty little groups at the range, those groups are going to expand dramatically under the stress and adrenalin. The more you train, the better you will do, but you can still miss, or the bad guy may end up hiding behind something which your bullets don’t penetrate. Nobody has ever survived a gunfight and then said afterwards, “Darn, I wish I hadn’t brought all that extra ammo.