Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Questions About Gun Control After UCC Shooting

A gunman killed 9 people at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg Oregon before being killed by responding sheriff deputies. This is a sad, horrific incident, and my heart goes out to the families of the deceased.

President Obama was quick to say that “This is something that should be politicized” in reference to stricter gun control laws and has even gone on to cite Australia’s outright ban on guns and subsequent confiscation as an example of what might be done here in the US. Before I can entertain support for such policies, there are a series of issues and questions that I would like to have addressed.

  • Mother Jones cites 572 fatalities in 71 mass shootings from 1982 to July of 2015. Adding UCC that makes 72 mass shootings and 582 fatalities. From 1984 to 2014 there have been 608,478 homicides in the United States. Based on these numbers, mass shootings have accounted for .09% of homicides in the United States. Should we be crafting nationwide policy based on terrifying, spectacular, but extremely rare incidents such as mass shootings?
  • This is a sad graph that represents the terror in the final moments of people’s lives, but it has to be examined. From the same Mother Jones source, here is a graph of mass shooting fatalities by year.
    US Mass Shooting Fatalities by Year

    US Mass Shooting Fatalities by Year

    Concurrently, gun ownership rates are on a 30 year decline, from a height of about 54% of households owning guns in 1976 to about 33% in 2010. How do we explain the apparent rise in mass shooting fatalities with a concurrent drop in gun ownership rates? Will measures that further reduce gun ownership rates lead to a slower increase in mass shooting fatalities? Are there other socio-economic forces at work causing both trends?
  • Speaking of trends, the US murder rate has plummeted from 10.2 murders per 100,000 people in 1980 to 4.5 in 2014. Various hypotheses have been put forward for the purpose of this decline, from shifts in demographics to the expansion of the police state; even legalized abortion and decreases in lead exposure among children. Can gun control legislation take credit for this decline or is violent crime a complex phenomena that is affected by a variety of socio-economic factors?
  • Why does the 24 hour news cycle bombard us with constant coverage of these tragic, but extremely rare incidences? This question is especially important when some experts say that media coverage leads to more shooting.

    For years, forensic psychiatrists have been urging American journalists to reform the way they report on these incidents. In a 2009 BBC interview, perhaps the best known among those psychiatrists, Dr. Park Dietz, said: “We’ve had 20 years of mass murders throughout which I have repeatedly told CNN and our other media, if you don’t want to propagate more mass murders, don’t start the story with sirens blaring. Don’t have photographs of the killer. Don’t make this 24/7 coverage. Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story, not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero. Do localize the story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible in every other market. Because every time we have intense saturation coverage of a mass murder, we expect to see one or two more within a week.”

  • As shown, mass shootings are extremely rare, horrific events that receive round the clock news coverage. Not at all unlike terrorist attacks. The 9/11 terrorist attacks led us into the War on Terror, which by some estimations will end up costing US taxpayers $4.4 trillion and has led to an unprecedented expansion of the domestic surveillance state, with the NSA alone costing us about $10 billion a year. The Department of Homeland Security’s airport safety measures through it’s agency, the Transportation Security Administration, has been ridiculed as bloated, ineffective security theater that hires airport employees with terrorist links and failed to detect 95% of fake weapons and explosives that the Office of Inspector General attempted to smuggle into airports as part of a covert test. Are we being fed another dose of costly, ineffective security measures to make us feel safe after an extremely rare, horrific event? Read what a psychologist had to say in a Vanity Fare interview about the TSA’s impotent security measures for more information on how we access and respond to risk.
  • Speaking of the NSA, the UCC shooter posted a warning online the day before his attack. I thought we were paying you people $10 billion a year to spy on us in order to keep us safe??? Didn’t anyone report this lunatic to the FBI?
  • Some of the original proponents of gun control were conservatives and the NRA trying to keep guns out of the hands of the Black Panthers. Historically, gun control has been about disarming perceived domestic enemies of the state. When the conservatives were in control, gun control was about disarming scary black people who were rightfully defending themselves against systematic, brutal police state oppression. Now that liberals are in charge, who are they casting as their larger than life, gun crazed, lunatic enemies? If we are to accept “common sense” gun control legislation, will it include mental health screening? Who will define mental illness? Will creationists and climate change deniers be found mentally ill and therefore unfit for firearm ownership? Will conservatives? Homophobes? Conspiracy theorists? Vaccine resistors? Pro-lifers? Tax resistors? Will they join urban minorities on the list of scary, potentially violent people who are to be denied the right to bear arms?
  • A study published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy (Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide?) found no correlation between a country’s gun laws and it’s murder or suicide rate. Rightfully, the Daily Kos posted an article pointing out that a number of countries were excluded from the study. Countries like the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Australia and others ought to be included. But even with their inclusion am I to conclude that small, prosperous, culturally homogeneous countries are the key to reducing murder rates? If so, can we get started on breaking up the United States today? Maybe then liberals can institute strict gun control laws in their own small, culturally homogeneous break away states. Heck, I might prefer such a state to the one I’m in now.
  • Speaking of cultural homogeneity, a 1982 study, Population and Heterogenity and the Sociogenesis of Homicide, found results that:

    lend support to the theory that the interaction within a society of heterogeneous cultural groups tends to increase the rate of homicide. The empirical analysis controls for the effect on homicide rates of the age structure of the population, per capita GNP, urbanization, and population density; the results suggest that the first two of these factors are also important in explaining variations in homicide rates.

    One suggestion is that cultural homogeneity helps to establish a moral consensus. Admittedly, I haven’t read the entirety of the paper, but perhaps, if we would like to reduce violent crime and specifically violent gun crime, we ought to focus on moral consensus in smaller polities, increase GNP (perhaps focusing on the economic well being of the country’s poor) and keep an eye on the number of 17-24 year olds (who make up 33.7% of those killed by firearm homicides and accounted for 28.3% of homicide offences; found here.)

This country has the highest incarceration rate in the world, the biggest military in the world, and the most expansive foreign and domestic surveillance system in the world. Before we go on to grant this government a monopoly on firearm ownership, we should seriously question it’s motives, it’s reasoning, who exactly it intends to disarm. Who benefits, who doesn’t? Is this a rational, effective response to violent crime and gun violence? Are there other socio-economic factors at play? Security is a trade off. Is this trade off worth it? Or are we being fed a big, scary lie?

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