Saturday, December 15, 2012

Meaningful Action

The news from Newtown, Connecticut is one of eleven reports of over 11 murders in  a single event by gun fire since 1984, one of 19 over the past 5 years of multiple deaths in a single shooting incident.
President Obama's statement was masterful, but, through no fault of his, incapable of ameliorating this sort of disaster; having said that, I cannot think of another President or leader who has ever done better--even Reagan addressing the Challenger explosion, was still just an actor playing the part. Mr. Obama was through and through, authentic, not milking this for anything, simply expressing what every parent is thinking.
The news media, you would think, would have figured out by now  what to cover and what not to say, but, as usual, the reporters, columnists, TV news show producers have been insufferable. (NPR's Scott Simon being my personal migraine--he seems to just love wallowing in these moments with that syrupy, unctuous voice he does, to tell you just how deeply he feels for your loss, as if nobody in the country could possibly feel as badly as Scott does about this.) Interviews with distraught witnesses, people hugging, interviews with clergymen, interviews with "trauma psychologists" and with social workers, saying things like, "This is a tragedy,"  clips from the governor and police chiefs.
As if any sort of authority figure has a clue about what to do about all this.
And then there are the men and women who are paid to swing into high gear because they work for the National Rifle Association, the Republican Party or for some gun control group.
All of the "experts" sound like imbeciles. The office holders are simply unable to say anything of value. The world will little note nor long remember what they say. 
The prize imbeciles are the NRA faithful who say we ought to arm more people, so Next Time, someone in the crowd will pull a gun and shoot the shooter, just like in old Westerns. 
Right here in New Hampshire the legislature debated and may, for all I know, have passed a law to be sure legislators could carry their guns into the statehouse.
Has there ever been a case when an armed citizen truncated a murderous spree by shooting the shooter? 
It reminds me of the days when AIDS was arising, before anyone knew much about the virus, and before there were any drugs to treat it.  It was already out there, having infected hundreds of thousands, and we heard interviews about how this was all the government's fault for not spending enough money on the problem.

 People from the National Institutes of Health were saying, "It's not money we need: It's ideas."

But AIDS turned out to be a single--albeit ever mutating--virus. While it has not been successfully eradicated, on the scale of polio, it has been managed.

We are not managing gun violence of the Newtown type.

If we stopped the manufacture and sale of another gun of any sort tomorrow, we would still be pickled in guns--over 300 million by some estimates, extant in this nation as we speak.
How do you control access to guns by deranged people, when there are more guns than McDonald's restaurants, when guns are like automobiles--ubiquitous, and the only reason there are not even more deaths is the self interest and will of the operators in possession of these instruments of destruction?
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, ever the fresh minded thinker, suggested we give up on restricting access to guns, but attempt to restrict access to bullets. Even Chris Rock picked up on that idea as a way to restrict gun violence in the ghetto, saying, "Can you imagine if a bullet cost $5000? Ain't no way no brother going to shoot more than one round, and only at close range. Then he'd go dig it out." 
Somehow, though, I cannot imagine the well planned shootings at schools would be much deterred by expensive bullets.  And you can steal bullets as easily as stealing guns. 
I need ideas. I agree with the President, we ought to take meaningful action, if only I had a clue what form that might take.


  1. Mad Dog,
    I should say up front no gun control bill could ever be to strong for me-ban all guns except those using BB's-marvelous idea!I know my views would be considered very extreme and that is maddening since it should be common sense. Why do people need to own what a woman in CT correctly termed "killing machines"? For what? What do these semi and automatic weapons, originally designed for the military, offer that a gun that holds just a few bullets offers besides carnage on a large scale.

    The arguments for ownership of these types of weapons is so irrational.You don't need them to hunt-our forefathers did just fine feeding the village with their rifles and I thought the idea was to cull the herd not wipe it out. You don't need that excessive lethal power to defend your home--a few bullets should do the trick. (That home protection argument is a ruse anyway-it's suggested you keep your guns unloaded for safety purposes yet what good would that do you during a home invasion? So which is it NRA-keep them loaded or useless?)They wouldn't be required in the event of a foreign invader since we have a well armed military for that. So that just leaves citizens defending themselves against their own government-like the insurgency in Syria. I should think the 300 million guns already out there would be adequate in the highly unlikely event we needed to arm an insurgency.

    We'll never be able to prevent all mad men from killing if that is what they are hell bent on doing, but limiting the fire power will limit the deaths. As Gail Collins wrote "Every country has a sizable population of mentally ill citizens. We're the one that gives them the technological power to play God." I did hear one "expert" on TV say that most weapons used in mass killings are recently purchased by the gunman-that acquiring the weapons is part of the ritual leading up to the killings. If this is true it's just one more reason to prevent the sale of these ultra lethal weapons.

    I really hope the President does something important on gun control and that the country gets behind him. If the mass slaughter of first graders doesn't get the ball rolling nothing will...

  2. Maud,

    Okay, teach me on this.
    I'm living on a farm, miles from my nearest neighbor, like the Klutters, of In Cold Blood. I may not be made safer by having a shotgun in the house or the barn, but should I be denied this likely false sense of security? I guess I'm asking about if the law should distinguish between rural and urban guns.
    When you read of the mother's possession of guns in this case, her love of guns, shooting ranges, should we close down all the shooting ranges? Should we allow shooting ranges but only with guns owned by the shooting range?
    Is is practical to try to restrict the access of maniacs to guns, when guns are as widespread as birch trees in New Hampshire?
    Assuming the 2nd Amendment really does limit the right to keep and bear arms to militia members (which it most clearly does--unless you are Antonin Scalia) what do we do with the present problem of the guns already out there? Guns, buried in a backyard can last for centuries.
    I'm with you on this, Maud, but what is the goal? Is it to prevent the next Newtown? Is that an attainable goal?
    We can shoot a rocket to Mars, with astronauts, but that is easier than controlling the behavior of the deviants in a population of 300 million.
    Is the difference between the USA and Norway only the size of the population, or are they doing something more effective than we are?
    I don't know the statistics, but I do know, when I lived in England in 1972-1973 the front page story was about an off duty policeman who shot a bank robber who ran across his path, still carrying the bag stuffed with cash. There was outrage over a policeman: A/ Carrying a gun B/Shooting a bank robber with that gun--I cannot recall whether or not the robber had a gun. The use of a gun in England in those days was an outrage. I understand things have changed since then, in England. Why?
    So walk me through the relevant considerations here.
    Really, I'm at a loss.

    Mad Dog

  3. Mad Dog,
    Yes, I see your point that there are several different issues involved. There's the need for more stringent gun control to among other things eliminate the sale of semi and automatic assault weapons, there's the need to lessen people's desire to own guns and there's the problem of what to do with the 300 million existing guns.

    I didn't really make myself clear before-I don't think all guns should be banned.(I just really like that idea)If someone feels safer sleeping with a revolver tucked under their pillow who am I to deny them that option. What I don't think should be an option is popping into bed with a sub-machine gun. No one needs that kind of firepower besides the police and the military. That would hopefully reduce, if not the number, at least the severity of mass killings but mass murder only accounts for 1% of the yearly deaths from guns. So that still leaves a huge problem. You mentioned Norway and England and why they have a much lower incidence of gun violence, as does the rest of Europe. I'm sure there are many factors but I would imagine the largest factor could be they just have less guns. Maybe it's no more complicated than that,less guns=less gun deaths.But how do you convince our gun crazed society to forgo gun ownership? It will mean taking on the NRA who have done a wonderful job of convincing a large segment of the population that guns are as American as baseball and apple pie and will be a long process.

    As for what to do about the existing guns- ugh, I don't know. The government could offer a buy back but that would probably only have limited success. People would be reluctant to give up their guns because it's macho, cool American, patriotic and "fun" to have one and I don't see a large number of gang members rushing to turn in their arms. The goal would be to change people's minds, to have them view gun ownership and the use of guns the way you describe England did in the 70's. I know, I know that will take a long time but our society has changed it's views on race, gays, women why can't it change it's mind on guns. I'm with the President that the worst offense is to do nothing, as I'm sure you are as well...


  4. Maud,

    I cannot disagree with anything you've said.
    Once again, I was so grateful to have President Obama speaking at that memorial service last night. The man is the genuine article.

    Mad Dog