Are we crazy?
The Las Vegas death toll has shocked the nation, as all such events do. News channels are full of the usual hunt for information on the assailant, identity of the victims, and examination of the circumstances that made the scene ripe for mass killing.
Politicians will speak of their prayers and the condolences they’ve sent to victims’ families. The president will offer—as best he is capable—sympathy. But despite the dutifully repeated words of on-air journalists that we shall never forget those who died, we will.
We will forget them the way we always do. Politicians, in fear of the National Rifle Association with its deep pockets and gerrymandered districts with their concentration of right wing voters, will go right back to doing what they can to allow the country to be flooded with guns—guns that have no hunting or target practice utility, guns meant only to kill in warfare. The slightest of extra care about gun availability is rejected by hiding behind the 2nd Amendment.
I want to drive as fast as I’d like; my freedom of movement should trump government’s control on my highway speed. I have a Constitutional right to bear arms; so there should be no or minimal government control over the arms with which I choose to exercise my right. And even speaking of controls the way we would about passenger airplane maintenance, restaurant safety, and building codes produces a well-funded frenzy of opposition from the NRA and politicians acting as their apologists and megaphones.
Most of the nations of the world have a higher murder rate (recently 9.63 per 100,000 annually). But in the parts of the world to which we should be compared, viz., Canada, United Kingdom, Central and Western Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, murder rates are below 2.63. Ours is 5.22, twice as high. (These are murder rates, not gun murder rates; making a case that there’s a significant difference would be a hard argument to make. Moreover, these data omit suicides by gun.) We cannot stop murder, we cannot stop violence, we cannot stop gun violence; that we can is not my point. But we can make a far more reasoned, muscular attempt to stop being a nation sick with guns.
The media in the next few days will be full of examining the Las Vegas tragedy—the victims, the blame, and the perpetrator. Yes, there’ll be discussion of gun laws, but we’ve proven we’ve a habit of letting those matters fade. The White House has even commented that this is not the time for politics. Really?
All the data we’ll hear and read about the scene and perpetrator will be interesting, to be sure, but only broad social effects will address the issue, and that means politics. In fact, the concentrated criminal investigation, as imperative as it is for law enforcement officers, when it is the focus of citizens’ attention, actually interferes with demanding and persevering with an honest political resolution. Anyone who maintains that this is not the right time owes the country and future victims an answer. Just when is the right time?
Good stuff JC. Well written Ron
I asked Google why Congress has not banned the sale of automatic assault weapons [“Restricting Unusually Dangerous Firearms”], and could find very little information to answer the question. Seems that both political parties have failed to pass (permanent) bans on automatic assault weapons when they were in control of both houses of Congress and the presidency, introducing a “sunset” provision that allowed a previous ban to expire. Surely this latest massacre will result in such a law, and the NRA can go piss up a rope if they don’t like it.
I received via a separate medium, this comment from Tom Lane:
“When I have had the opportunity to discuss ‘gun control’ with advocates,(which is rare to have a real discussion) I use the tool of a continuum of weapons. On one side I put a single shot .22 and on the other a nuclear bomb on a missile. In between there is a gradual increase in “fire power” or capability to kill. If you make one of these, you see that humans have arbitrarily drawn a line of control.. Nothing beyond these are allowed for individual possession; that is somewhere around totally automated machine guns. We are not allowed to have hand grenades, rocket launchers, cannons, etc. So we already have ‘gun control.’ The only question is where do we draw the line. No one, I hope, in their right mind would advocate allowing individuals to own a rocket launcher, so where do we redraw the line in our society? I have used this 2-3 times and it totally ends the discussion. No where to go for the gun crazies in that.”
After all 59 funerals and burials.
Thank you for this post; the statistics you present and their context matter. And, as you said, next week we will have “forgotten” the victims and we’ll move on to another topic. We don’t even recall that little kids died bloody deaths in their own school or that movie goers were slaughtered or that church goers were massacred. Just another day in NRA-ville. No problem. We’re good with our “rights” to own military grade guns ‘n ammo. Don’t touch our rights to own weapons that kill a bunch of people real fast; gotta keep those rights.
Here’s a another point made yesterday: For those who think “now’s not the time to speak about gun violence” we might ponder that “now wasn’t the time for those people who were murdered to die.”
What if you’d been in that group, mortally wounded and watching others bleed and fall? What if your child or parent or other loved one had been there? As one of the musicians emotionally told us via twitter; before this concert he’d been adamantly opposed to gun control. He’s now changed his mind.
When there were fatal hotel fires in Las Vegas, laws were changed to protect guests. When there’ve been epidemics, we’ve changed laws regarding medicine and vaccination. If we had the common sense, the guts, the moral fiber we COULD change laws, we could change minds. It’s just so easy to falsely assume we will never have to deal with the memory of our wounded child or our brother’s skull blown apart; it won’t happen to us; because we got us a …gun.
“…it will never be the right time to discuss mass shootings, as Christopher Ingraham pointed out… Under the broader definition of mass shootings, America has nearly one mass shooting a day. So if lawmakers are forced to wait for a time when there isn’t a mass shooting to talk gun control, they could find themselves waiting for a very long time.” https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/10/2/16399418/us-gun-violence-statistics-maps-charts
Good post, John.